Dwayne Johnson is going deeper with “Shark Week.”
The 34th edition of Discovery’s famed summertime TV festival devoted to the apex predator, airing July 24 to 30, will have its fierce Great White shark moments, hail hammerheads and unveil “monster” mako sharks.
But The Rock, 50, says he will shine a light on his Polynesian heritage – and its cultural reverence for sharks – as the first ever master of ceremonies for “Discovery: Shark Week.”
“I’m half-Black and half-Samoan, so we’re using this moment to illuminate my culture,” says Johnson. “I wanted to tie in the importance we hold for sharks. Let me show you what they mean to us.”
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Sharks are considered “aumakua,” a personal God that Hawaiian families believe derived from a deified ancestor that offers protection. Johnson will need a tank top to show off this respect, as it’s tattooed on his body.
“Sharks are all over my tattoos, and there are shark teeth protecting the story of my tattoos,” says Johnson, who will interject colorful discussions to open and close each night of primetime programming. “So this year, there’s the cache, the pomp and circumstance of ‘Shark Week.’ But we go deeper.”
Johnson traveled to his home state to film his segments in Oahu introducing 25 hours of new “Shark Week” programming (Sunday, 8 EDT/PDT). “I wanted to make it authentic,” he says.
The cultural moment will balance out the more outrageous celebrity “Shark Week” segments. The OG of shark TV celebrations steps up the adrenaline-filled programming in a competitive arena as predatory rivals have entered the big fish competition. Nat Geo’s “SharkFest” knockoff celebration began July 10 and runs for an entire month.
“Shark Week 2022” highlights on Discovery and Discovery+ (all times EDT/PDT):
“Jackass” returns: ” Johnny Knoxville sent the “Jackass” crew on a “Shark Week” last year to help get Sean “Poopies” McInerney overcome his fear of sharks. They failed. So Knoxville is coming along to oversee operations with Wee Man, Chris Pontius and, naturally, Poopsies in “Jackass Shark Week 2.0” (Sunday, 9).
‘Impractical’ shark education: “Impractical Jokers” stars Sal Vulcano, James Murray and Brian Quinn hit the waters of the Bahamas’ Blue Lagoon, rip off their Hawaiian shirts and get into the water in “Impractical Jokers Shark Week Spectacular” (Tuesday, 8). The high jinks kings aim to dispel the myth of man-eating sharks using the only educational style they know: mortifying challenges and dares.
Tracy Morgan fandom: “30 Rock” star Tracy Morgan loves sharks so much that he put his name twice in the title for “Tracy Morgan Presents: Sharks! with Tracy Morgan” (July 28, 8) Morgan will get exclamatory teaming up with shark experts to identify and admire the ocean’s craziest, most ferocious sharks.
Sharks (kind of) walking: These aren’t exactly landsharks. However, wildlife conservationist and biologist Forrest Galante travels to Papua New Guinea to prove that epaulette sharks (also known as bamboo sharks) are evolving to walk on land. In “Island of the Walking Sharks” (July 27,8). Galante documents an epaulette shark using its fins to walk over wet and partially submerged rock. It’s progress. “This is spectacular. How amazing is that to see a shark leave the water and come onto land,” Galante says.
‘Top Gun’ returns: It wouldn’t be summer 2022 without a “Top Gun” spinoff. “Air Jaws: Top Guns” (Monday, 8) extends the annual quest to find the highest flying sharks. Filmmakers Dickie Chivell and Andy Casagrande use the latest high-tech cameras, hoping to capture the largest breaching great white ever seen.
The lineup has Johnson, who last went into the water as a lifeguard in the doomed 2017 comedy remake “Baywatch,” predicting that “Shark Week 2022” will live up to past years’ glory.
“‘Shark Week’ is beloved around the world; it’s the best week of the year,” he says. “And this year, we nailed it. People are going to enjoy it.”