In the world of television, you've simply got to be good to survive. At least, that's the way it has seemed - what other reason could there be for the wealth of schlocky, imitation TV movies that fail to register on the radar of even devoted genre fans? But if there's one thing that Sharknado has proven, it's that sometimes being really, really bad is a recipe for success - provided the fans do the legwork.
With Syfy's thriller(?) franchise now in its third installment, it's clear just how much the cast and crew of Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No (and however many sequels are to follow) has the fans, and specifically social media, to thank. And as long as their dedication keeps up, there is every chance that - despite naysayers - the Sharknado series is here to stay.
We spoke with the cast of the film during San Diego Comic-Con, and all seemed to agree with out assessment that if any series can claim to be "built by Twitter," it's Sharknado. It may seem to be a case of catching lightning in a bottle, but actress Tara Reid has no illusions about who's really to thank:
"We never knew one was going to do this well, nevermind sitting here doing international press on a third one. Which is incredible, it's become a trilogy. It's 90 countries, it's universal. It's not like it was just successful here, but all over the place. Who knew? The chances of that to happen is like one in... none, a billion, you know what I mean? It's just been incredible to be a part of this whole franchise. And you really got to give credit to the fans. Without the fans this movie wouldn't be what it was.
"Social media is what made the film. Getting over a billion hits, getting a million tweets per minute. That wouldn't have happened if it wasn't for the power of social media and the fans, so it's really them that we need to thank."
Sharknado 3 also marks the return of Cassie Scerbo to the series, after taking the sequel off. As happy as fans may have been to see 'Nova' return (with a lovesick Frankie Muniz in tow), Scerbo says she was shocked her part in a ludicrous Syfy tale of shark-storms garnered an audience at all:
"We have a lot to thank Twitter for. That's how I found out people were even watching this thing. I'm like 'Oh this'll be the one thing no one will ever watch, so whatever.' I remember being on Twitter and looking at the trending topics and just being like '...Sharknado? No no no, it's probably like a new gummy shark that came out and it's called Sharknado or something, it's not our Sharknado.' But that's what it was, I think it was a social media effect, and people just started rolling with the punches, and everyone just jumped on this train, and it became one big party. It became so much fun, and a social media sensation. So we definitely have a lot to thank Twitter for."
There's no one that the success of Sharknado has been kinder to than star Ian Ziering, whose role as the unshakable family man and shark-slayer 'Fin Shepard' has has made him recognizable to a generation that never tuned in to a single episode of Beverly Hills 90210 (his most famous role to date).
As the actor jokes about staying on board the franchise for dozens more sequels, he doesn't credit Sharknado's success to any tongue-in-cheek fandom, or a "so bad it's good"/cynical mentality, but a "tech-savvy" audience who are just as hungry as the film's finned villains:
"As Twitter has grown, it's taken this movie with it, because Syfy fans are all really very tech-savvy. The Syfy community is very well-connected across social media platforms, and when there's a buzz about something that one of these people find interesting, it spreads like wildfire globally, because we're all connected on the net. And the anticipation and excitement just starts to build and build. And when you deliver a movie like Sharknado, there's a huge payoff. And the Syfy fans create so much data online that it spills over into mainstream entertainment and it becomes water cooler conversation. So this movie's got that secret sauce, that special ingredient, whatever it is, I don't know. But it sure is fun.
"This movie has got legs for many summer events to come. You know, they're cost effective, and the audience demands it. The fans demand... this movie wouldn't be made if there wasn't a huge outpouring. We're over a billion Twitter impressions from Sharknado 2. How does that happen? It's astonishing."
The third installment of the series may not have been as entertaining as the heightened stakes and pumped-up lunacy (did somebody say "Sharkicane"?) would imply, but that doesn't really matter; Sharknado has found a place in the current TV landscape that more "legitimate" or ambitious creators would kill for. The sequels don't need to get better, more refined, or even more satisfying to be adored. They simply need to keep delivering on a premise too insane to have worked - but which has succeeded more than any would've guessed.
Years from now, network executives and genre writers may try to decipher just how Sharknado succeeded where so many others have failed, but for now, releasing at just the right time - with just the right hashtag - seems as valid an explanation as any.
Are you one of the fans demanding the series continues? Does its emphasis on insane fun seem needed now more than ever, or are you simply perplexed as to how it's made the impact it has?
Sharknado 4 is reported to currently be in development for Syfy.