How Shark Week Will Explore One Man's 'Miraculous' Shark Attack Survival Story With A New Format

Great white shark from Shark Week's Great White Open Ocean 2022.
(Image credit: Discovery)

Shark Week returns to Discovery for the 34th year starting on July 24, and the first night will deliver a special that explores one man’s one-of-a-kind survival story after an encounter with a great white shark in a format that fans – whether they’re tuning in for the first time or have been watching for three decades now – haven’t experienced before. Shark Week veteran, executive producer, and Air Jaws creator Jeff Kurr spoke with CinemaBlend to open up about the special, called Great White Open Ocean.

Great White Open Ocean is one of the three specials that open the first night of Shark Week this year, and it’s going to be something that viewers won’t want to miss, based on what Jeff Kurr previewed about what’s in store. It will also be a special that has a personal connection for the producer, as it involves an incident with a friend and what happened in the aftermath. Kurr previewed:

Great White Open Ocean is a film that follows the story of a friend of mine, an expert shark diver named Jimi Partington. He actually survived being hit from below by a 16-foot great white. We were able to capture this encounter on film, and it's probably the most spectacular sequence in Shark Week history. It’s also miraculous, because when Jimi was hit by the shark, he didn't get a scratch on him. He actually had to swim for his life back to the boat, but he was fine. But there's a lot more to this film than just that encounter.

Anything that qualifies as “the most spectacular sequence in Shark Week history” has to be must-see, after all that the Discovery event has already aired going back to 1988, including everything from the fan-favorite Air Jaws specials to celebrity appearances (including the Jackass gang last year), famous athlete participation (like Michael Phelps proving if he was faster than a shark), and much more. 

Fortunately, Great White Open Ocean is a story about Jimi Partington’s recovery after his “miraculous” survival without a scratch, as well as the initial incident. Jeff Kurr elaborated about how the special will dive into what followed that encounter with the 16-foot great white, saying:

I think what makes Great White Open Ocean such an incredible story is we follow Jimi on his comeback as he attempts to dive with great whites again, to try to overcome his PTSD that he had from the first incident, to try to get back in the saddle. And then he almost dies a second time. I don't want to reveal what happened the second time – that'd be a spoiler – but I was with him both times. For me, it was an extremely emotional, tough situation to be with this guy, because he's a friend of mine, and to see him almost die twice, and to capture it on film and tell his story... It's just spectacularly visually beautiful, and a very touching emotional story.

Anybody willing to dive back in with great whites after a terrifying encounter is bound to have a thrilling story; in Jimi Partington’s case, viewers will see him survive another near-death experience before the end of the special, but they’ll have to tune in on Sunday night to see the details of his journey.

If everything that Jeff Kurr shared with CinemaBlend about Great White Open Ocean sounds different from what Shark Week fans might normally expect from Discovery during its most shark-filled week of the year, there’s a good reason for that. He explained a key way that it stands out, and his hopes for how viewers react:

[It’s] stuff that you don't normally associate with Shark Week, but I was very happy that some of the top executives at Shark Week got behind this project, and allowed me to make it in a sort of a film format. It's a longer form format than what Shark Week normally runs, but it's just a beautiful, amazing story. And I hope everybody watches it and loves it.

The world premiere of Great White Open Ocean airs on Sunday, July 24 at 10:30 p.m. ET on Discovery as one of the specials to kick off the very first day of Shark Week 2022. The night starts out with Great White Battleground at 8 p.m. ET and continues with Jackass Shark Week 2.0 (featuring the cast of the Jackass franchise for the second time) at 9 p.m. ET. 

Jeff Kurr has three more specials airing as part of the 2022 event on Discovery as well, including the newest installment of Air Jaws with a Top Gun bent on Monday night. It should be a great week for fans of the event… although probably not a great week for seals, as usual! Stay tuned to CinemaBlend for more Shark Week coverage, and check out our 2022 TV premiere schedule for some more upcoming viewing options.

Laura Hurley
Senior Content Producer

Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. Resident of One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and Northeast Ohio. Will not time travel and can cite multiple TV shows to explain why. She does, however, want to believe that she can sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation (and author bios).