Stars on screen

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - TELEVISION SEARCH - By An­drew War­ren

Back in the water: Dis­cov­ery has a love af­fair with the ocean’s great­est toothy preda­tors, and so does its au­di­ence. Sharks — killing ma­chines so deadly that they’ve changed very lit­tle over mil­lions of years — are the stars of the chan­nel’s an­nual week-long pro­gram­ming event, and start­ing Sun­day, July 23, they re­turn from the ocean’s dark­est and most ter­ri­fy­ing depths.

Run­ning un­til the fol­low­ing Sun­day, Dis­cov­ery’s Shark Week is ex­actly as ad­ver­tised: seven days of shark-cen­tric pro­grams and spe­cials that range from wild and en­ter­tain­ing to smart and fin­for­ma­tive.

More en­ter­tain­ing than ter­ri­fy­ing is Sun­day night’s big event, one that al­ready has the metaphor­i­cal tongues on so­cial me­dia wag­gling. “Phelps vs. Shark: The Bat­tle for Ocean Supremacy” is pretty much ex­actly what its name im­plies: swim­mer Michael Phelps, the most dec­o­rated Olympian of all time and holder of sev­eral world records, chal­lenges a great white shark to a race to dis­cover who is the true king of the waves.

If that sounds a bit too kitschy, then some of the more ed­u­ca­tional and in­for­ma­tive pro­gram­ming might be in or­der. Mon­day night’s “Alien Sharks: Stranger Fins” takes a look at some of the strangest sharks in the water, like long-snouted saw-sharks and deep-dwelling gob­lin sharks. Fri­day’s “Lair of the Saw­fish” goes even more in depth with the enig­matic creature, con­sult­ing with ex­perts who are try­ing to bring the unique species back from the brink of ex­tinc­tion.

Love them or fear them (or maybe even both), sharks hold a spe­cial place in the hearts of so many peo­ple. Whether you’re in it to be en­ter­tained or in­formed, Shark Week has toothy pro­gram­ming for ev­ery­one, and it kicks off Satur­day, July 23, on Dis­cov­ery.

Be­hind closed door: Ever won­der, while out away from home, who else has stayed in the same ho­tel room in which you spend the night? Chances are it was no one su­per im­por­tant, but that doesn’t mean that the other guests can’t have in­ter­est­ing sto­ries.

From the minds of Jay and Mark Du­plass (“To­geth­er­ness”) comes a new an­thol­ogy se­ries pre­mier­ing Fri­day, July 28, on HBO, that takes a stab at an­swer­ing ex­actly that ques­tion. “Room 104” is a mix of com­edy, drama and hor­ror that fea­tures a new cast of char­ac­ters check­ing in to the tit­u­lar room at an en­tirely av­er­age Amer­i­can mo­tel in ev­ery half-hour episode.

Whether it’s a man in a Santa out­fit, a tuxedo-clad man with his danc­ing shoes on or a pair of Mor­mon mis­sion­ar­ies, Room 104 hosts its fair share of quirky guests. Of course, as an an­thol­ogy with new char­ac­ters in each episode, “Room 104” also fea­tures a di­verse ar­ray of ac­tors.

The list of stars set to ap­pear over the se­ries’ run is lengthy but in­cludes some pretty big names. Ellen Geer (“Clear and Present Dan­ger,” 1994), James Van Der Beek (“Daw­son’s Creek”), Mae Whit­man (“Par­ent­hood”), Nat Wolff (“The Fault in Our Stars,” 2014), Tony Todd (“Trans­form­ers: Re­venge of the Fallen,” 2009) and Ross Par­tridge (“Stranger Things”) are just a few of the ac­tors who are set to check in to Room 104 at some point over the next few weeks.

It’s a quirky idea on a chan­nel that’s known for push­ing the en­ve­lope. Plan a trip to the couch and check in to “Room 104,” pre­mier­ing Fri­day, July 28, on HBO.

Vicky and a gob­lin shark from “Alien Sharks”

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