The Atlantic has a interesting article today about the history and evolution of Discovery Channel’s Shark Week, in honor of its 25th anniversary. It’s a pretty good read, but what really jumped out at me was this anecdote:
The legend, as [Shark Week’s executive producer Brooke Runnette] tells it, goes like this: In the early years of the Discovery Channel, executives John Hendricks, Clark Bunting, and Steve Cheskin, widely considered the three main primogenitors of the Discovery Channel, were seated at a bar among a group of their Discovery colleagues in what one can only imagine was probably euphemized as a “post-work brainstorming session.”
The next events played out exactly as millions of shark fanatics across the globe have probably imagined. “As I’ve heard it, they were just talking about what kinds of things would be fun to do on Discovery,” the executive producer says. “And one of them said something like, ‘You know what would be awesome? Shark Week!’ And somebody in that nexus scribbled it down on a napkin. You know how that is. An idea in a bar comes from many fathers.”
I don’t know about all of you, but I like the fact that Discovery Channel’s signature event was dreamed up by a group of possibly inebriated executives at a local watering hole. I imagine it went down something like this:
[The year is 1987. John Hendricks, Clark Bunting, and Steve Cheskin are at a bar near their office brainstorming ideas, which they are shouting at each other over the music being played on the bar’s jukebox.]
STEVE CHESKIN: I swear to God, if that guy plays “(I Just) Died In Your Arms” one more time, I’m gonna smash a beer bottle on his head.
CLARK BUNTING: [slurring words] Aw come on, Shteve. Issa good song.
STEVE CHESKIN: He’s played it FIVE TIMES.
JOHN HENDRICKS: Look, can we please stay on topic here. We need come up with some ideas. Good ones.
CLARK BUNTING: What if we gave two koalas swords and then made ‘em all mad?
JOHN HENDRICKS: What? I don’t even think a koala could hold a sword. And besides, that’ll get us in trouble with animal rights groups. No, no koalas with swords. Steve, what about you? Any ideas?
STEVE CHESKIN: [eyeing up the guy at the bar who keeps playing “(I Just) Died In Your Arms”] … JESUS. He’s asking for more quarters. He’s gonna play it again.
JOHN HENDRICKS: Steve. Focus. Do you have any ideas for the network?
STEVE CHESKIN: [still not paying attention] I dunno. Something with gorillas.
CLARK BUNTING: F-ck gorillas.
JOHN HENDRICKS: What? Why?
CLARK BUNTING: [hiccups] Because f-ck ‘em, thass why.
STEVE CHESKIN: He’s getting up. He’s really doing it. I can’t take it.
JOHN HENDRICKS: Calm down. Maybe he’ll play a different song this time. Hey, you know what would be awesome? Shark We-“
[The first few notes of “(I Just) Died In Your Arms” begin playing in the bar]
STEVE CHESKIN: [slams down beer glass, screams across bar] THAT’S IT, ASSHOLE. YOU AND ME. OUTSIDE.
[Steve Cheskin storms over toward the jukebox, but is intercepted by a bouncer a dragged out of the bar.]
JOHN HENDRICKS: [sighs] How do you feel about sharks, Clark?
CLARK BUNTING: I luff ‘em.
JOHN HENDRICKS: [finishes beer, grabs jacket] Sharks it is.