25th October 2007

You mean Reality TV isn’t real?

Man vs WildDoes anyone really believe that it is? Even after all of the obviously scripted shenanigans on shows like the Simple Life, The Hills, The Real World, and countless other reality shows?

Even on shows like Discovery Channel’s Man vs. Wild, in which host Bear Grylls heads off into the wilderness to survive for a few days or a week, reality isn’t real. Come on, what would Discovery Channel do if Bear ever met with a life-threatening accident, like say getting eaten by a (real) bear? Would they air it? Of course not. Would they really risk losing their charismatic host? Of course not. So we have to assume that although it “looks” dangerous, it isn’t really. It’s simply entertainment of another form, not much different that any half-hour sitcom or hour drama, except without the canned laugh-track.

Apparently however, those at Discovery Channel themselves were fooled, since they’ve launched an investigation into allegations that much of the danger didn’t exactly exist as depicted in the carefully edited episodes.

While I won’t share my opinion of anyone at Discovery who really thought that Bear was risking life and limb in every episode, I heartily applaud their decision to keep the show on the air, albeit making clear that he does receive assistance, and not all the dangers presented are as real as they seem (as well as re-editing older episodes so as to be less misleading).

The reason I think this is a wise decision is that Man vs. Wild, along with The Science Channel’s Survivorman, presents the viewer with a true education in survival techniques, in a way that is both interesting and memorable.

I will point out that in episodes of Survivorman, it’s host Les Stroud does indeed venture into the wild alone, and truly does face a real degree of danger that is unscripted. No cameramen accompany Mr. Stroud (he films himself) and receives no outside assistance until he is picked up by his crew at a prearranged time and place.

But in either case, real or scripted, the techniques taught by these shows could very well come in handy should one unexpectedly find oneself in a dangerous survival situation. So should we care more that it’s “real”? Or that we can learn something from it anyway.

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