'Sharknado 4': A Return to Summer Camp - NECN

'Sharknado 4': A Return to Summer Camp

The Syfy disaster spoof series, which returns Sunday, gets better as it gets worse.



    During an episode from the latest season of "The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt," Titus Andromedon explains the lack of activity at a construction site by passing along some insider information from his hardhat boyfriend: "Mikey told me 'Shark Week' is now a union holiday."

    If Discovery's annual salute to the sharp-toothed guardians of the ocean warrants a vacation, then Syfy's upcoming latest "Sharknado" installment marks Christmas in July. "Sharknado: The 4th Awakens" arrives on Sunday, offering a refreshing splash of summer camp at a time when we all could use a break from real disasters.

    It's been three years since the first legions of insatiable sharks got swept up in a tornado and attacked Los Angeles, becoming an instant and unexpected pop culture phenomenon – essentially sharks propelled by Twitter snark. The gloriously silly TV movie represented less a commentary on global warming than a spoof of 1970s disaster flicks, complete with hammy acting and the greatest chainsaw-aided escape from the jaws of death in entertainment history.

    The laughter spawned sequels in 2014 (the sharks invade New York) and 2015 (sea-dwelling sharks swallow political sharks in Washington) as the series got better by getting worse.

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    Pushing most movie franchises past three installments, as George Lucas learned the hard way, doesn't always fly with fans. So perhaps it’s appropriate that the title of the new "Sharknado" chapter plays off "Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens."

    Timing might help the odds of success for "Sharknado: The 4th Awakens," in which the airborne predators hit the Las Vegas strip. There's an almost Trumpian theme to the series – warnings of disaster awaiting us at every turn – not to mention some more direct Donald Trump links: In the last "Sharknado," Mark Cuban, another rich guy from TV (he's a mainstay of "Shark Tank") and a frequent Trump critic, did a great job playing an over-the-top tough-guy president in last year's installment.

    Gary Busey and Cheryl Tiegs, both veterans of "Celebrity Apprentice," join this year's cast. Returning as the aptly named Fin, the only man able to protect us against the flying sharks, is Ian Ziering, whom Trump fired "Celebrity Apprentice" after the actor set a booze jingle to "La Cucharacha." Tara Reid (whose character apparently survived a does-she-live-or-die online poll) and David Hasselhoff round out the C-list cast of the B-movie parody.

    If nothing else, "Sharknado: The 4th Awakens," offers a chance to veg out as the carnivorous sharks chow down. We might not need a week to celebrate, but the laughs hopefully will make some uncertain weeks ahead more bearable.

    Jere Hester is Director of News Products and Projects at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is also the author of "Raising a Beatle Baby: How John, Paul, George and Ringo Helped us Come Together as a Family." Follow him on Twitter.