It was raining sharks on Thursday night for TV’s intelligensia.
The Syfy telepic “Sharknado” caught fire in social media, particularly after it began unspooling on the East Coast at 10 p.m. ET. The hashtag-friendly title and utterly ridiculous premise — Los Angeles is ravaged by a tornado of sharks — made it an irresistible target for Twitter commentary for a host of prominent showrunners, producers, actors and industry execs.
On Thursday night, “Sharknado” was the top-trending term on Twitter for hours, and tweets with that hashtag were arriving at the rate of dozens per second during the East and West coast runs of the so-bad-it’s-good telepic starring Ian Ziering and Tara Reid.
Given the explosion of second-screen interest in the pic, bizzers will be closely eyeing the ratings on Friday to see if it had more traction that the average fantastical Syfy made-for, and whether the West Coast airing saw a bump from the storm of interest the title generated on Twitter, Facebook and other platforms.
Showrunners such as Damon Lindelof and Shawn Ryan took delight in live-tweeting the movie. But the commentary on Sharknado extended to such unexpected quarters as NBC News’ Chuck Todd and actress Mia Farrow.
As Todd noted, it was impossible to miss “Sharknado” on Twitter on Thursday night, a deluge that undoubtedly drove tune-in for Syfy.
I follow about a thousand folks. Every one of them tweeting about SharkNado—
Chuck Todd (@chucktodd) July 12, 2013
Syfy execs were not immediately available for comment Thursday night. It’s likely that even the biggest “Sharknado” supporters at the NBCUniversal cabler were surprised by the depth of the reaction that the summer guilty pleasure hit with viewers. Certainly “Sharknado” writer Thunder Levin didn’t see it coming.
“It’s very exciting, and the magnitude of the response is a bit overwhelming,” Levin told Variety. “The response from other screenwriters has been surprising. I honestly didn’t see that coming. I actually traded tweets with Damon Lindelof tonight. Though I’m pretty sure he doesn’t know who I am.”
The “Sharknado” concept was the brainchild of execs at The Asylum, the shingle that produced the pic for Syfy (not to be confused with Asylum Entertainment, a different entity). Levin wrote and directed a pic for Asylum last year, “American Warships,” and they asked the hyphenate to pitch them ideas for a prospective telepic called “Shark Storm.”
Levin passed at the time but was persuaded when the Asylum partners — Paul Bales, David Latt and David Rimawi — came back to him a month later with a title and a concept he couldn’t refuse, although Levin did pass on the chance to direct “Sharknado.”
The storm stirred up by “Sharknado” is a vivid demonstration of the power of second-screen activity to help traditional networks market their wares and turn projects with the right kind of sizzle into programming events that resonate long after the initial telecast ends.
But “Sharknado” is also an example of how unpredictable the social media hive effect can be. The attention to “Sharknado” gained steam through as more and more people shared their live-snarking on social media. No amount of advance marketing and strategizing on Syfy’s part could have unleashed such a torrent if viewers weren’t genuinely compelled to the screen by a pic that didn’t take itself too seriously (The key art tagline is: “Enough Said!”).
Here’s a sampling of Hollywood’s reaction: