Film and TV

Reality Bites: Eaten Alive

Fool me once, shame on you...

There are a million reality shows on the naked television. We're going to watch them all, one at a time.

I didn't actually watch Eaten Alive when it aired last weekend, though I understand quite a few people did. How do I know this? Because they were unbelievably whiny in their disappointment:

No way I would have done what he did, but why build the show up and him not even be eaten alive? I mean... He wasn't even close. #EatenAlive -- Ty Shute' (@TyShute33) December 8, 2014

Discovery letting me think Paul gets eaten by a snake and then not letting that happen is the reason I have trust issues. #EatenAlive -- Zac Dalpe (@ZacDalpe22) December 8, 2014

And it went on like this, apparently, for two hours. Obviously the prospect of being able to react immediately to a man getting swallowed whole by a python was a big reason people tuned in live, but for the first time in years I was happy for my "experience" with reality shows. I knew better than to sit through the overwrought two hour(!) buildup, recording the show for future ... well, I don't want to call it "enjoyment." Call it an opportunity to exercise my fast forward finger.

In case it wasn't already obvious, the subject in question -- a conservationist named Paul Rosolie -- wasn't actually eaten by an anaconda Sunday night. This didn't become apparent until the end, after much hype involving, among other things, the design of a special "anaconda-proof suit" that would theoretically allow Rosolie to survive being consumed, which seems unnecessary given how survival has already been shown to be possible.

Some creative retroactive editing was obviously in effect, and this was evident in Discovery's belated defense of the program:

"Paul created this challenge to get maximum attention for one of the most beautiful and threatened parts of the world, the Amazon Rainforest and its wildlife. He went to great lengths to send this message and it was his absolute intention to be eaten alive."

Bullshit, Mr. Han man. Look, I can't manufacture the outrage necessary to even remotely elevate my blood pressure over this. Clearly the show was edited and in the can weeks before the promotional campaign started. If they wanted to spin the show as a call to arms in defense of the rainforest, they'd have mentioned that from the outset.

Oh, and maybe they'd have called the show something other than "Eaten Alive."

Instead, we (well, you) got to spend a laughable amount of time joining Rosolie and friends (including his wife, because sure) in hunting for a mythic 25-foot "mega-anaconda" (co-starring Tiffany and Deborah Gibson) called "Chumana." Things start off promisingly enough, if by "promising" you were really looking forward to a dozen assholes jumping on a hapless python and yanking it from it's comfortable environs.

"Yanking the python." Someone should write these down.

There was also a rundown of the historical significance of the snake and it's eeevil man-eating ways, a sequence which should've been set to "The End" by the Doors, if only to tie in "ride the snake" with the hopeless Apocalypse Now style setting.

And it wouldn't be a trip to the jungle without parasites, specifically nematodes, which burrow into your skin and require melted candle wax to eliminate. I hope they paid Madonna (or maybe Kelly LeBrock) a creative consultant fee:

There's more we could talk about -- the laughably ominous soundtrack, the horror movie-style shaky cam, the fact it's not even remotely possible to survive being eaten by an anaconda because they don't start eating until its prey is actually dead -- But what should really be pointed out is the fact 4.1 million viewers tuned in for this. Evidently some of us still believe the "Discovery" Channel, like The "Learning" Channel before it, still a) has something remotely educational to impart, or b) actually delivers what it advertises (how quickly we forget the Megalodon fiasco.

Still, 4.1 million. Just as 18 percent of Americans still smoke and 14 percent still approve of the the job Congress is doing, it appears there's a similar baseline of idiocy among TV watchers.

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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar