Nudity small part of Naked and Afraid equation
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.