Now that Bear Grylls has had his fill of urine and the Duck Dynasty characters have gone deep into hibernation for winter, it seems that The Discovery Channel had to re-commission something edgy to keep its couch-based adventure seekers happy. That’s where ‘Naked and Afraid’ comes in, the survival themed reality TV show, with a very raw edge to it.
The premise of the show is simple. Take one male and one female, with basic survival training (which translates as they’ve all been camping at least twice), and place them in a wilderness environment with the aim of reaching an ‘X’ on a poorly drawn map. It’s a recipe that reality TV producers have been churning out over and over again for the past decade, but luckily ‘Naked and Afraid’ has an edge to it. Hint: the clue is in the name.
Yes, nudity! Full frontal and fully-pixelated nudity. The reason for this is apparently to ensure that the contestants are surviving by only using the land and their wits. However this is immediately undermined by the fact that everyone is allowed to take a luxury item along with them to Camp Nude.
Although the show focuses on the ups and downs of living butt-naked in a desolate wilderness for three weeks (think deserts, jungles, Scunthorpe), it’s the deep tension between the contestants, particularly the gender politics, that keeps you watching. I guess some men are still struggling with the idea that a woman should want a poorly-constructed grass hut of one’s own.
The voice-over narrator adds a subtle, and rather dark, humour to the show, so it’s a shame there isn’t more of this. Aside from carrying the show along, he highlights what contestants shouldn’t be doing for the sake of their health and safety, shortly before they actually do it. Admittedly, it’s cheap humour, but humour nonetheless.
The show is on its second season, and if the first is anything to go by, there are plenty more arguments and injuries to come. As long as the contestants aren’t completely humdrum, you do end up forming short-lived relationships with them. You may even root for them to survive if you’re not dead inside, like me.
What the show does leave you with is the realisation of how dependent we are on technology, machines, and supermarkets. That most of us are relatively clueless as to the origins of what we eat and what we own. It’s nice to see a channel so committed to the outdoors and natural history having such a strong and serious message behind it’s programming. And if we have to watch some nice people fleeing from a cheetah before developing gangrene and diarrhoea, then so be it.
Episode 1 of Naked and Afraid is on The Discovery Channel, Thursday 11th December, 9pm