‘Sharknado' Takes a Third Bite

The Syfy movie series returns for third installment that fans hope lives up to their low expectations.

There’s a rare pantheon of film sequels that equaled or even bettered the instant-classic original installments: “The Godfather: Part II.” “The Empire Strikes Back.” “The Two Towers.”

And, of course, “Sharknado 2: The Second One.”

Who could have guessed that after the 2013 initial, literal gut-buster (courtesy of a chain saw and a mass suspension of the laws of physics), we’d be treated to a follow-up featuring fare-beating sharks riding the New York City subway – a scene worth the price of the admission (the price of admission, of course, being flipping on the TV on a hot summer’s day).

Now the airborne sharks are set on Wednesday to fly into our lives for a third consecutive July with the arrival of the aptly named, “Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!” Whether the third time remains a charm doesn’t depend on the quality of the purposely-schlocky flick as much drawing an audience that still delights in having its low expectation met.

The latest installment of Syfy’s exercise in TV movie high-concept camp (sharks + tornado = sharknado) comes amid the 40th anniversary of the greatest fish thriller of them all: “Jaws.” Unlike Steven Spielberg’s classic, built on suspense, richly drawn characters and sparse, but perfectly timed explosions of fin-propelled attacks, the “Sharknado” is a live-action cartoon where too much is never enough. Then again, “Jaws” never produced a sequel near worthy of the original.

Both series, in very different ways, tap into our fear and fascination about our sharp-toothed sea-faring friends, whom the folks at Discovery have deemed worthy of a dedicated week, every summer since 1988. The viral footage of professional surfer Mick Fanning’s chilling encounter with two sharks in South Africa offers a stark reminder that it’s not always safe, to paraphrase the “Jaws” tagline, to go back into the water.

“Sharknado” plays the shark fascination/fear for laughs, while throwing in a comic commentary of sorts about the perils of climate change. Even if the series’ stock human characters (Tara Reid and Ian Ziering) ultimately MacGyver themselves out of immediate danger, there’s always another Sharknado looming (probably next July, depending on Wednesday’s ratings).

This year’s shark vacation, which includes a stop in already shark-infested Washington, features appearances by the unlikely likes of, among others, Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb, Jerry Springer, Michele Bachmann and Mark Cuban as the president. But there’s no doubt who the real stars are – check them out in a preview as “Sharknado” gets set to take another bite out of our guilty pleasure TV-watching time. 

"Sharknado 3" airs on SyFy on July 22nd at 9 p.m.ET/PT. 

Jere Hester is Director of News Products and Projects at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is also the author of "Raising a Beatle Baby: How John, Paul, George and Ringo Helped us Come Together as a Family." Follow him on Twitter.

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