NEW YORK CITY — A twister filled with man-eating sharks is about to hit New York City — at least on your television screen.
“Sharknado 2: The Second One” debuts Wednesday on the Syfy network, and many fans are anxious to see if it has teeth. It’s the sequel to 2013’s TV movie-turned-pop cultural phenomenon “Sharknado,” which set social media afire. There are high expectations for it, even if one of the stars thinks the name is less than inspired.
” ‘Sharknado 2,’ really guys?” asked Mark McGrath, who joins the franchise as the best friend of protagonist Ian Ziering. “You guys have a lunch break when you were making up the title?”
Last summer, “Sharknado” churned up a storm of laughs and 5.3 million viewers over the course of three airings on Syfy. Audiences got creative, with A-listers live-tweeting and shark memes circling the Web.
Stars Ziering and Tara Reid return in the sequel to take on the freak weather system and save the Big Apple. Ziering entered into the halls of outrageous pop culture with a climactic scene in which his character, Fin Shepard, makes a grand escape from the inside of a shark’s belly by employing a chain saw.
Fans hope “The Second One” will be just as outlandish.
“The whole thing is over the top. We have gone bigger and better in all regards,'” said Thunder Levin, the screenwriter for both films. “Expect to see the shark mayhem move to New York City, and by definition anything that happens in New York tends to be bigger and better.”
Facing pressure from producers to replicate that iconic, gory scene with Ziering, Levin said he believes he has devised the perfect solution.
“I was 10 pages into script before that moment came to me,” Levin said. “I e-mailed the director, told him that’s what I wanted to do, and he loved it. And I said, ‘OK, don’t tell anyone.’ I wanted everyone else to read it as it naturally developed in the script. So for a month or so I had producers and directors breathing down my neck wanting to know what this moment will be, but I fended them off until I sent off the script. And luckily they loved it. I think the audience will like it, too.”
Of course, you will have to watch to find out about the grisly scene.
Bringing such outrageous episodes to life in the heart of New York had its own challenges, including filming for hours in the cold of a bitter winter (disguised as summer for the movie), paparazzi lurking behind taxis, and, literally, rubber sharks flying through the air.
While filming a busy scene, McGrath found himself standing on top of a taxicab, ready to swing himself into the shark-infested cyclone.
“They go, ‘All right Mark, grab onto the rope and swing across Broadway 50 feet, and jump off on the other side,’ ” McGrath said. “I’m like ‘It’s a string, how is anybody going to buy that?’ And so we were doing it and jumping onto a mat like 2 feet off the ground. Oh boy, the sharknado looks great. … These guys do amazing work in (post-production).”
The “Sharknado” TV movies are not the first or last to take on the topic of vicious sharks attacking vulnerable humans (although, they are perhaps the first to have sharks soaring overhead in a tornado). The movies pay tribute to some of their predecessors while also trying to bring something new to the screen.
Of course, the concept of an out-of-control “Sharknado” descending on the country’s biggest cities is completely original, invented by director Anthony Ferrante.
At least one star has said she thinks it’s not beyond reality. Reid recently told GQ magazine she believes a sharknado is possible.
“You know, it actually can happen,” she said. “I mean, the chances of it happening are very rare, but it can happen actually. Which is crazy. Not that it — the chances of it are, like, you know, it’s like probably ‘pigs could fly.’ Like, I don’t think pigs could fly, but actually sharks could be stuck in tornados. There could be a sharknado.”
Syfy has already signed on for a third “Sharknado” movie. Screenwriter Levin predicts that after New York goes down, there might be a “global Sharkapocalypse.”
Levin has a few tips for the fans gearing up for “Sharknado 2’s” big touchdown.
“You definitely have to watch it with friends,” he said. “I think alcohol would probably be a good ingredient. You need popcorn, to eat it and also throw at TV. And those inflatable air sharks floating around your house would be a great addition.”
“Sharknado 2: The Second One” premieres at 9 p.m. ET Wednesday on Syfy.