Phelps vs. Shark is Completely Absurd, Engrossing & Misleading

Phelps vs. Shark Poster

Phelps vs. Shark Plot Summary:

All-time great American swimmer Michael Phelps competes to see if he can swim faster than a Great White Shark in South Africa.

Spoilers ahead.

But are these really spoilers? You probably figured out the following…

  1. Michael Phelps did not actually race a shark.
  2. Henceforth, Michael Phelps did not get eaten by a shark.

While I had a slight hope that the Discovery Channel had figured a safe way to get Phelps and a Great White Shark in a pool together — there was no logical way this was happening. And, the show tells you that literally off the bat.

There’s two reasons why the actual race could not happen —  constructing a safe environment would not be feasible, and sharks don’t exactly swim fast on command.

Yes, those diva sharks ruined everything for us.

In theory Phelps does race against a shark. However, it’s against the measurables of shark, specifically data collected about how fast a shark can swim over a specific distance. So basically Phelps is racing against data, and not an actual shark.

The show tries its hardest to animate a shark into the race against Phelps, but in the end it looks like cut scenes for a Sharknado movie.

Now the way the scientists collect the shark speed is actually kind of interesting. At one point a scientist is on a stationary bike rigged to a pontoon boat with a piece of bait attached to it. This lunatic’s job is to pedal as fast as he can to have the shark chase him and the bait so his team can clock the shark’s speed. It’s kind of cool to see the absurdity unfold before your eyes.

As for Phelps he really saves this special from being an utter dumpster fire. His quiet charisma, and his nerdiness about sharks is quite endearing. You’ve also got to appreciate his dedication to this madness. In fact, you actually, for about five seconds, believe he can swim faster than a shark.

Then logic sets in, and you realize there is no possible a man, conditioned to swim in the perfect environment, can be fast than an aquatic killing machine double his size.

Once the actual “race” occurs this special literally is out of gas — they actually recycle footage so much in the last 15 minutes that you become completely desensitized to everything. How many time can we watch a white shark leap out of the ocean and snatch a decoy, and then cut to Phelps and company geeking out over it? The answer is fives times.

In the end, Phelps vs. Shark was a gimmick that was expectedly disappointing, and hollow. It was a nice stunt in theory, and honestly you’re stuck watching this because you literally want to see how it all pans out. However, once it does — it’s completely forgettable.

Rating: 4 out of 10

Bill Bodkin is the gray bearded owner, editor-in-chief and co-founder of Pop Break. Most importantly, he is lucky husband, and proud father to a beautiful daughter named Sophie. He can be seen regularly on the site reviewing The Walking Dead, Doctor Who, and is the host of the site's podcast, The BreakCast. He is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism & English. Follow him on Twitter: @BodkinWrites