At one time or another, "Jaws" has had most of us afraid to go swimming in the ocean. Fortunately, the fact that it's just a movie and that actor Robert Shaw didn't actually get eaten and that the shark's name was Bruce allowed most of us to get over our fear.
We regret to inform you that Discovery's latest Shark Week entry, "Return of Jaws," is about to bring all that back Monday, 8/5 at 9 PM.
Filmed along the coast of Cape Cod (near the fictional town of Amity where "Jaws" takes place), the "summer home of the great white shark in the Atlantic" according to marine biologist Greg Skomal, the area is the site of the first confirmed shark attack in 76 years in 2012. With shark numbers on the decline, why are shark sightings (more than 40 last year) there on the rise?
Federal protection of the gray seal has caused a rise in their population which, to a great white shark, means somebody just opened an all-you-can-eat buffet all along the New England coast. This is bad news for swimmers who, though they're not generally on shark menus, often bear an unfortunate resemblance to chubby gray seals and are attacked by mistake.
The hope for Skomal and company is that they will gather new information about the predatory behavior of the great whites in hopes of preventing future attacks on humans. The footage from the sub as it follows the shark for hours — at a distance of only a few feet — is groundbreaking and the data they gather on its route up the coast is both illuminating and frightening. At one point, Skomal prepares to send out an alert to clear a lagoon (which also bears an unfortunate resemblance to the one where the chief's son gets attacked in "Jaws") as the shark closes in on swimmers.
So how does the documentary measure up to the movie? Here's a quick breakdown:
SIZE: The shark in "Jaws" is about 25 feet long, larger than any actual great white ever recorded. The sharks that get tagged in "Return" are 17-18 feet — not record-breaking, but still big enough to inspire a few sleepless nights.
DEATHS: Five in "Jaws" (six if you count Bruce), zero in "Return" (one if you count the seal that gets bitten in half) — although there's footage from the 2012 Truro incident, which was the first confirmed shark attack at Cape Cod since 1936.
THE MUSIC: The theme to "Jaws" may well be the single most iconic film score ever written; there's nobody who doesn't know what that "duh-dum" means. For some reason, every time seals are onscreen in "Return," there's dubstep music, conveying the impression that every day is a rave when you're a gray seal. Which may well be true, but that's another doc entirely.
[GIFs: 10 of Pop Culture's Best Sharks]
THE SHARK: If you haven't seen it in a while, you may remember Bruce as much more frightening than the clunky, rubbery critter he actually is. Real life sharks, however, do not stop being terrifying as special effects improve.
THE CLIMAX: In the movie, Chief Brody blows up a shark. In the doc, Skomal and company gather large amounts of data and help towns build action plans to improve beach safety. On paper, the first one seems way more exciting, but if you're talking about which you'd rather see every day, action plans end up the big winner.
THE BIG SCARE: Most people remember Quint being slowly swallowed by the shark in "Jaws." The thing people will likely remember from the Discovery show is a shark swimming in three feet of water. That is to say, if you are at the beach and the water's most of the way up your thigh, it is absolutely within the realm of possibility that an 18-foot-long shark is inches away from your delicious, delicious leg meat.