They never set out to be television stars, any more than they sought Hollywood fame in those Steven Spielberg movies.
But sharks remain among the most enduring (if unlikeliest) members of TV's A-list. Just consider Shark Week, the summer programming event on Discovery Channel since 1988. Once again, sharks are in the spotlight as Shark Week promotes respect and appreciation for these remarkable animals (with excitement also part of the mix).
Jeff Hasler, Discovery's senior vice president of development and production, said plans for Shark Week undergo a vetting process with "a lot of debate" that eventually settles on six or seven program ideas that make the cut. The new programs, mixed in with reruns, air nightly through Friday and then throughout the day Saturday.
"I think you combine a really compelling animal with a kind of a cultural zeitgeist moment, and it's something that people look forward to every year," Hasler said.
This year's new fare includes tonight's "Surviving Sharks," in which Les Stroud, host of Discovery's "Survivorman," offers tips for water safety and tests popular theories for surviving shark encounters. Example: Is it safer to stay in a group if stranded in the ocean or to tread water alone?
Tuesday brings "Dirty Jobs: Greenland Shark Quest." Mike Rowe, host of "Dirty Jobs," travels from usual tropical shark climes to the edge of the Arctic Circle in search of the mysterious Greenland shark, which scientists hope can provide lessons in the rapid ecological changes affecting that part of the world.
That theme crops up again in Thursday's "Mysteries of the Shark Coast," in which a cross-discipline team of sharkophiles sets off to determine why sharks are disappearing from Australia's northeastern coast.
Adam Savage, co-host of Discovery Channel's "MythBusters," said he hopes the week's popularity carries over into a push for conservation.
Sharks "are not as dangerous as you think, and they are really beautiful," he said, adding that millions each year "are killed to make soup, and it's really, really sad."