Bio’s I Survived debuts tonight, lets survivors tell their own stories

Tonight at 9 p.m. ET, Bio (formerly The Biography Channel) debuts a new reality series called I Survived that’s so focused on reality, it’s basically just a series of interviews. The show “allows survivors to explain, in their own words, how they overcame unbelievable circumstances — offering insight into what got them through the experience that changed their lives forever,” and “is storytelling at its most dramatic, most basic and most honest,” according to the network.

Tonight’s episode includes three stories: “a woman is raped, shot three times, and left for dead by an intruder in her home; a man is caught in a freak blizzard that threatens to bury him alive in his jeep; and two boys who survive a plane crash maintain cell phone contact with a 911 operator as rescuers desperately try to find them.”

Unlike other similarly focused series, I Survived does not use reenactments. Instead, it just uses footage of the scene (or places reminiscent of the scene) as an establishing shot, and then cuts back to a close-up of the survivor sitting in front of a black background, talking. The producers and editors only editorialize through the music, which occasionally gets a little heavy handed, almost like a horror movie. Still, the relentless focus on the survivors telling their stories makes those stories much more powerful. As HBO’s fictional In Treatment has proven, listening to people talk about their lives can be even more compelling than watching those lives unfold, and because these are real stories, that’s even more true here.

I Survived [Biography]

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.