Discovery's "Shark Week" has become the surprise hit of the TV schedule for an otherwise middle-of-the-pack cable network; a whole week of programming all built around the ferocious predators of the sea as they show more white teeth than an episode of "The Real Housewives of Atlanta," and more gore and blood lust than an episode of, well, "The Real Housewives of Atlanta."
Ratings drive ad dollars, and networks chase ad dollars like sharks chase chum. So it should come as no surprise that Discovery is planning a companion week of programming, and Credit Union Journal has the first look: Get ready for "Loan Shark Week."
Although some of the programming details are still floating beneath the surface, this newspaper has learned the following is what Discovery has planned:
Sunday, 8-9 EST
The special week makes a big opening splash with an episode that takes a frightening up-close look at the MegaBadLoan, a lending beast that has been swimming in the Usurious Sea since prehistoric times. You'll be amazed as you watch how this behemoth actually begins its life as a small and almost harmless minnow, but then starts growing rapidly until even whales swim the other way. So big, it eventually devours itself!
Tune in as Discovery's cameras follow a small and helpless Angel fish-like, young mother as she stops by a payday lender looking for a small loan of $250 to help feed her small fry until her next paycheck. You'll want to look away from the screen-but will not be able to!-and as you squint through your nearly shut eyes and witness her signing a loan agreement that is all but unintelligible to anyone but a fish-oil slick lawyer.
That loan has a Arctic Ocean-cold 450% APR, and when the young mother has to roll that loan over like a porpoise at Sea World the cameras catch actual footage of fees attaching themselves like barnacles. In no time that $250 is $2,500 then $5,000, and the borrower is last seen drowning in the Whirlpool of Debt.
Sunday, 9-10 EST
Loan Sharkzilla: The Autopsy
Discovery has gathered a top team of financial paleontologists to recreate LoanSharkZilla and its ravenous life. The team will include representatives of credit unions, who will explain how LoanSharkZilla never had to come to life at all. (Note: the CU scene is relatively short, as who really tunes in to watch people talking about how a disaster has been diverted, anyway? Seriously, how many movies have you seen about ocean liners that missed the iceberg?)
Monday, 8-9 EST
Business was good at the intersection of Rascal Road and Scam Street, where Great White Loans had business all to itself. Now the cameras follow along as Mako Take-o Check Cashing opens across the street and blood is in the water faster than a Quentin Tarantino remake of Jaws.
Tuesday, 8-9 EST
LoanShark: Attack on the SEALS
Using hidden cameras for never-seen-before footage, prepare to watch as helpless young SEALs and other military recruits are attacked in a financial feeding frenzy by LoanSharks that have lined up outside the gates of military bases just waiting for these suckerfish to swim by.
Wednesday, 8-9 EST
The Old Man and the C
You'll want to keep those tissues handy as we follow an elderly widower with damaged, C credit as he pawns his deceased wife's wedding band to pay for a refill of heating oil. You'll cringe as the C paper meets Sea Snakes and the man walks by sadly every day looking at the wedding band in the window.
Thursday, 9-10 EST
The team of investigators from Discovery's popular Mythbusters program tackle some real urban legends here, such as "No one will lend me money" (mythbusting conclusion: go ask at a credit union), "I don't understand finances" (mythbusting conclusion: go ask at a credit union), and "I don't know how to save for the future" (mythbusters' conclusion: go ask at a credit union). Pay attention and watch as the Mythbusters all admit, "This was a pretty easy episode."
Friday: 9-10 EST
In a collaboration with the creative team behind Undercover Boss, you'll watch as the president of Sharpteeth Lending disguises himself as a new employee and soon finds himself being mocked by LoanShark veterans for not running a swordfish all the way through the borrower, for forgetting to add that third digit to the loan APR, and at one point for almost showing compassion.
Saturday, 9-11 EST
LoanShark: 25 Biggest Bites
The week wraps up with this two-hour special featuring a countdown of the 25 biggest LoanShark Tales, as more than two-dozen sharks brag about putting the sting in stingray. Special cautionary note: just watching this episode could lead to having your television repossessed and cable bill doubled, these sharks are that good!
Frank J. Diekmann can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Texas CU League Annual Leadership Conference. For info: www.tcul.coop.
Credit Union Development Education Fall Training. For info: www.ncuf.coop.
NAFCU Congressional Caucus, Renaissance Mayflower Hotel, Washington. For info: www.nafcu.org/events.
CUES Director Development Seminar, Hilton Savannah DeSoto, Savannah, Ga. For info: www.cues.org.
NASCUS State System Summit, Denver, Colo. For info: www.nascus.org.
CUES ServiStar Users Group, Hilton Savannah DeSota, Savannah, Ga. For info: www.cues.org.
MACUMA Annual Leadership Conference, Hershey, Penn. For info: www.macuma.org.
CUES School of Risk Management, Embassy Suites, Schaumburg/Woodfield, Ill. For info: www.cues.org.
CUES School of Consumer Lending, Embassy Suites, Schaumburg/Woodfield, Ill. For info: www.cues.org.
CUES School of Business Lending III: Strategic Business Lending, Embassy Suites, Schaumburg/Woodfield, Ill. For info: www.cues.org.
CUES Advanced School of Risk Management, Embassy Suites, Schaumburg/Woodfield, Ill. For info: www.cues.org.
CUES Advances School of Consumer Lending, Embassy Suites, Schaumburg/Woodfield, Ill. For info: www.cues.org.
Iowa Credit Union League Annual Meeting, Marriott Coralville, Iowa. For info: www.iowacreditunions.com.
NCUA Board Meeting, Alexandria, Va.