Monday, August 03, 2015

Beach Week: Cult-TV Theme Watch: Sharks

In the summertime -- and at the beach -- there is no more fearsome a nightmare than the appearance of a shark in the surf.

Sharks terrify us because of their strength, power and "alien-ness," but also because they can attack, often fatally, without warning.

In the course of everyday life today, man as a species has few real predators.  But go to the ocean, and a predator swims just beneath the glassy surface of the sea...watching and waiting.

Accordingly, cult-TV has often featured stories that feature sharks as the villain.  On an episode of The Six Million Dollar Man, in 1977, for example, Steve Austin (Lee Majors) had to defeat the trained sharks of Pamela Hensley while working to retrieve a nuclear submarine, in "Sharks."

Oddly, the sharks of cult-TV history are not always traditional in nature, or even ocean-bound.

For example, a classic episode of The Outer Limits (1963-1965), "The Invisible Enemy" featured an alien shark of sorts on Mars, one who could glide invisibly beneath the sand, and pull astronauts down to their deaths.

On Saturday Night Live (1975-present) in the 1970s (and immediately following Jaws), there was a recurring sketch about a "land shark," one who could ring your doorbell or knock on your apartment door.  Once let in, he would eat you.

On a sixth season episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997 - 2003) called "Tabula Rasa," Spike owed money to a loan shark demon who was literally a bipedal shark.

Shark aliens (called Karkarodon), similarly, have appeared on The Clone Wars (2008 - 2014).

And on Saturday morning television, a shark knock-off of Scooby Doo had his own show, called Jabberjaw (1976 -1978).

Today, we associate the phrase "jump the shark" with a 1977 episode of Happy Days (1974 - 1984) titled "Hollywood."  There, Fonzie (Henry Winkler) went water skiing -- over a shark -- and that's the weirdest, perhaps, of all Jaws knock-off/tie-ins. 

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