Nu­dity small part of Naked and Afraid equa­tion

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - STYLE - MICHAEL STOREY The TV Col­umn ap­pears Sun­day, Tues­day and Thurs­day. Email: mstorey@arkansason­

Imag­ine the sce­nario at the meet­ing when the con­cept for Naked and Afraid was pitched to the suits at Dis­cov­ery Chan­nel.

Pitching would have been the over-caf­feinated in­trepid en­trepreneurs from the pro­duc­tion com­pany Rene­gade 83 En­ter­tain­ment. Let’s call the team leader Biff.

Rene­gade 83, based in Sher­man Oaks, Calif., cre­ates, sells and pro­duces un­scripted pro­gram­ming around the world. Past ef­forts have in­cluded Cap­ture, Ready for Love, Blind Date and Ex­cused, none of which have had the im­pact of Naked and Afraid.

Let’s lis­ten in on the Power Point pre­sen­ta­tion.

Biff: “Ben, Jake, Evin, thank you, gen­tle­men, for tak­ing this meet­ing. And, by the way, this is the best macadamia-al­mond milk, iced venti caramel mac­chi­ato I’ve ever tasted.”

Evin: “Be sure and try the car­damom and le­mon scones, Biff. They’re to die for. We get them from Mo Mo’s on Ge­or­gia Av­enue.”

Biff: “Thanks, Evin, but first I want to roll out our lat­est con­cept that is sure to take the re­al­ity world by storm.

“Pic­ture this: A cou­ple. A man and a woman — strangers — stripped down to their birth­day suits and dropped into the un­for­giv­ing mi­asma of the cruel, bug- and snake-in­fested jun­gle with only a knife and ball of twine.”

Jake: “Wait, Biff. Let me un­der­stand. They’re naked? We’re, like, ba­sic ca­ble, man. How will you pull that off.”

Biff: “Naked as jay­birds, Jake. Not a stitch. Not even a thong or flip-flops. But no prob. We’ll blur out all the naughty parts in post-pro­duc­tion. And they will be in­creas­ingly afraid as the days go by. Fear makes for great drama.”

Ben: “Who would sign up for such an or­deal? I mean, it sounds very un­com­fort­able.”

Biff: “At last count, Ben, we have 876 men and women signed up on­line who are will­ing to test them­selves in front of the cam­eras for 21 days with­out food or wa­ter, sleep or scones just for the glory of 15 min­utes of fame. No grand prize. No tro­phy. Just brag­ging rights. There are al­ways plenty of vol­un­teers.

“This will take sur­vival shows to the next level. This will be a so­cial ex­per­i­ment in the ba­sic hu­man qual­i­ties of raw emo­tional bond­ing and per­se­ver­ance. It will cel­e­brate hu­man strength and for­ti­tude, with nu­dity as the great equal­izer.”

Evin: “We’re in, Biff. Let’s run it up the flag pole and see if any­one salutes.”

Salute they did. Naked and Afraid was the top-rated pre­miere in the his­tory of the Dis­cov­ery Chan­nel when it de­buted on June 23, 2013. In that first episode, Shane Lewis and Kim Shel­ton lasted 21 days in the Costa Ri­can jun­gle where a scout­ing pro­ducer had been bit­ten by a ven­omous snake and sur­vived.

In the first sea­son, other cou­ples en­dured Tan­za­nia’s Serengeti, a bar­ren is­land in the Mal­dives, an iso­lated Pana­ma­nian is­land in­fested with sand flies, snakes and ’ga­tors in a Louisiana swamp and more.

Most lasted for the en­tire time pe­riod. Oth­ers “tapped out” when the go­ing got too tough or they got hurt. Ev­ery­one lost weight. Some­times a lot of weight eat­ing bugs and fish and trap­ping birds.

And be­ing naked? Cov­ered with bug bites (some­times hun­dreds of bug bites) and blurred for ba­sic ca­ble mod­esty, the nu­dity did not pro­vide any tit­il­la­tion for view­ers ex­pect­ing that sort of thing. There was no hanky-panky and some­times even an­i­mos­ity be­tween al­pha part­ners.

The show has evolved into a for­mula of meet­ing naked, find­ing the des­ig­nated area, build­ing some sort of crude shel­ter and search­ing for food and wa­ter. Some­times if it was rain­ing, build­ing a fire be­came the pri­or­ity.

There is also a for­mu­laic run­ning di­a­logue of weary com­plaints about be­ing de­hy­drated and hun­gry, miss­ing home and con­sid­er­ing quit­ting.

Usu­ally, a cou­ple of days be­fore hik­ing to the ex­trac­tion point, the cou­ple will fi­nally get some pro­tein by killing a tur­tle, or trap­ping a bird or bash­ing a snake. Or­gas­mic gus­ta­tory feast­ing oc­curs as they fi­nally have the en­ergy to fin­ish the or­deal.

Not suf­fer­ing, of course, is the well-fed and rested cam­era crew that re­mains out of sight and sleeps in a cozy base camp at night. A med­i­cal team is also nearby, just in case.

Sea­son 8 of Naked and Afraid pre­mieres at 9 p.m. to­day on Dis­cov­ery with the episode “Lost at Sea.” For the first time, two sur­vival­ists will have to en­dure be­ing stranded on a raft in the mid­dle of the ocean amid vi­cious man-eat­ing sharks.

■ Bonus stuff. There will

be spe­cial Naked and Afraid episodes at 8 p.m. Wed­nes­day and Thurs­day lead­ing up to a new sur­vival show, Dark­ness, at 9 p.m. Thurs­day.

In this one, three sur­vival­ists are aban­doned in mines, caves and un­der­ground labyrinths for up to six days. Spe­cial cam­eras al­low us to watch them suf­fer.

A Naked and Afraid pro­duc­tion crew films Char­lie Frat­tini and Dani Beau hid­ing from bugs in a river in Colom­bia dur­ing Sea­son 4.

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