Sometimes, cable reality shows deliver contrived, artificial versions of reality, however enjoyable it sometimes is (see VH1 for examples). But there seems to be a shift underway, encouraged by the success of Discovery Channel’s Deadliest Catch, toward raw, realistic experiences. Even Animal Planet is getting into the game, which will air a miniseries called Whale Wars this fall that follows controversial activists who try to screw with Antarctic whalers’ expeditions. That’s part its strategy to offer “gripping entertainment” that “bring[s] out the raw, visceral emotion in the animal kingdom,” its VP of development, Charlie Foley, told The Los Angeles Times in March.
One such uber-realistic show concluded its first season on Tuesday night. The Discovery Channel’s Alaska Experiment followed “four groups of ordinary people [who] struggle to survive in the tremendous Alaskan wilderness for nearly three long months,” according to the network. They “are outfitted with basic food stuffs and equipment, but to survive, they need to learn to hunt, fish, and cut their own firewood.”
In other words, it’s essentially Survivor without the challenges or game play–and with real survival skills required. As evidence of that, producer Brian Catalina says on the show’s site that “the volunteers and crew were given homing beacons called EPIRBS so that if they got lost in a whiteout or got disoriented — easy in Alaska — we could find them. The wilderness experts also had high-caliber hunting rifles as emergency protection against predators like bears or wolves. When the volunteers trekked far from their shelters, the experts accompanied at a distance to protect them and the crew.” Scary.
If you missed it, The Discovery Channel will air a reunion next Tuesday, and all of the first-season episodes are online; in addition, on Saturday starting at 10 a.m. ET, the network will air five episodes in a row. In addition, season two will apparently start casting soon, as a press release sent today says “[p]eople interested in putting their survival skills to the test in America’s last frontier are invited to apply for season two” online, but the web site doesn’t yet have casting information.