Syfy’s “Sharknado” may ultimately qualify as one of the freakiest events in recent memory. Of course, I’m not talking about the premise of this TV movie, which imagined a tornado sucking up bloodthirsty sharks from the ocean and depositing them into the flooded streets of Los Angeles. That’s totally plausible. No, I’m talking about the ridiculous Twitter buzz that dominated social media as the movie proceeded to assault us with campy performances, sketchy special effects and sharks that resembled something out of the Land Shark sketch from “SNL” in the 1970s. It didn’t matter! All that low-budget goodness just amplified the social buzz.
Syfy reported 5K tweets per minute during the movie. In all, there were 387K social mentions, 97% of them driven by Twitter with the top hashtags #sharknado and #syfy. Hell, this fin-filled fiasco was within 2.5K tweets of HBO’s “Game of Thrones” Red Wedding episode, which didn’t even include a scene in which Ian Ziering chainsaws his way out of a shark’s stomach. C’mon, George R. R. Martin! Where’s your creativity!? And it wasn’t just fans and gleefully sarcastic TV critics who joined the party. Celebrities including Patton Oswalt, Damon Lindelof, Elizabeth Banks, Olivia Wilde and Mia Farrow also got sucked into the Sharknado Vortex. Even the American Red Cross tweeted about disaster preparedness. No, I’m not making that up. The Red Cross actually tweeted about Sharknado last night.
So why the fascination with Sharknado? Because it’s so perfect, that’s why. After all, the entire city of Los Angeles was built by showbiz sharks who devour their enemies, so predatory marine life fits right into the culture. Second, millions of people are intrigued by the idea of Tara Reid and Ian Ziering trying to out-act shark puppets. And finally, Syfy has simply cornered the market on campy monster movies that provide much needed sustenance to C-list talent. Not since Debbie Gibson and Tiffany’s Oscar-worthy fight scene in "Mega Python vs. Gatoroid” has a Syfy movie done so much for humanity.
At the end of the day, Syfy absorbs all the jibes and sarcastic blogs (like this one) as validation of its savvy PR and marketing strategy. Sure, all the social media buzz didn’t necessarily translate into big linear ratings. (About a million viewers tuned in, fewer than other Syfy movies and appox 5 times fewer than watched GOT’s Red Wedding episode live). But in a TV world saturated with gritty and realistic dramas that sometimes take themselves too seriously, it’s interesting that the patently ridiculous can create as much if not more buzz—at least when it comes to social media. And with Discovery’s Shark Week set to start on Aug 4, I’m hoping for an episode exploring the dangers of a real-world Sharknado. Hosted by Tara Reid. And a shark puppet.
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