Reality shows on TV, all the rage for a couple years and now…?
I was hooked on Survivor for several seasons. It didn’t take long to figure out there were few survival skills involved, but the premise was mildly interesting. Team vs. team, boys vs. girls, Type A personalities vs. the more laid back. But before long, every episode began to look alike, even the same dialogue; “C’mon in guys.” “Wanna know what you’re playing for?” and “Immunity idol back up for grabs.” The scenery was beautiful. I’ll give it that.
Another so called reality show with an impressive longevity is one called Big Brother. I don’t know why. Young people sit around a room and babble about why they don’t like each other. Maybe the show has improved during the last few years. I wouldn’t know.
Don’t get me started on Man Vs. Wild. It features a “survivalist” with the unlikely name of Bear Grylls. What ticked me off on this one was the way Bear killed off the wildlife just to show you he could. Bear and Discovery Channel later admitted that many of the scenes were staged. In fact, Bear was not living off the land at all, but spending his nights at a plush motel chewing on domesticated steaks fresh from the chef’s grill.
Dual Survival is kind of cool if only to watch the guy who never wears shoes walk around on hot desert sand as well as snow. Okay, he does wear socks in the snow, but why he doesn’t get frostbite while we watch his feet turn black has never been fully explained. The guy is a pro at finding edible bugs and plants, but his partner and ex-military specialist is of the same mindset as Bear Grylls; he needs meat by Gawd and he’s gonna find something to kill. Now you have to keep in mind that someone has to be there to record these guys; video techs, sound men, maybe a producer or two. Are those guys living off snake meat cooked on a stick over a campfire? Are they crunching grasshoppers between their teeth? I think not. You think there’s any chance our reality survivors might wander over to the director’s tent and say something like, “You guys got any cold beer over here?”
Survivorman with Les Stroud may be the most authentic of the bunch. Stroud does not have a film crew but totes the cameras himself, setting up each shot. He uses a portable solar panel to keep his electronics going. The biggest wild game I’ve ever seen this guy bag was a ground squirrel and a turtle. He can’t catch fish worth a damn though he tries hard. He seems to love scorpions and grub worms. Seven days is his limit, then the helicopters come in via his satellite phone.
That brings us to a couple of the newer shows that I’ve had the misfortune to watch. Ultimate Survival Alaska takes eight outdoorsmen, drops them off in the wilderness with the goal to travel overland by any means they have available. They can hike it or build a raft and attempt to navigate the rapids. The average distance being around 12 to 30 miles depending on the terrain. One of the guys, a man by the name of Marty Raney, gets more camera time than rest. Macho to the core, Marty goes around with his shirt unbuttoned to display his manly chest hair while expounding about just how dangerous the situation is. In one episode, Marty turns his boat over in the freezing cold water, losing his gear. Soaking wet, with a cold rain pouring down, Marty is saved from certain death by two of the others who somehow get a fire started and somehow dry Marty out. The details of this miracle were a little sketchy. What you are asked to believe is that all eight of the men must move from point A to point B to meet the extraction plane on time, otherwise they will be left behind to…what? Die? I don’t think so, but that’s the premise.
Which brings us to what may be the goofiest survival show of all time; Naked and Afraid. Yes dear heart, it’s just what it sounds like. Two people, complete strangers, one male, one female, remove every last stich of clothing and survive for 21 days under the most miserable conditions the producers can come up with. The first show took place in the jungles of Costa Rica, not without its real dangers. The show led with a clip of a producer receiving a bite from a very poisonous snake called a fer de lance. He lost about half the flesh from his foot despite getting immediate care.
The couple were issued a machete and something else that I’ve already forgotten. If you enjoy watching blurred private parts and jiggling bare butts, this show is made for you. The male was far more interested in keeping with the jungle tradition of Me Tarzan, You Jane, than acknowledging the female’s skills to make their living conditions a little more tolerable. Yes, there was a camera crew with medical help as close as a short Jeep ride away. Yet, you couldn’t help but commiserate with the pair as they sat naked in a driving rain storm, dirty, hungry, cold, without so much as a spooker to chase away the chill. But after a while, your compassion turns to scorn, “Dumb, dumb, people.” There is no prize money, no games to see who can solve a puzzle the quickest, not even a host to ask “Wanna know what you’re playing for.”
I’m afraid I’ll have to pass on Naked and Afraid.