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Archive for October, 2010

Upon watching a recent television series on Channel 4 called ‘Alone in the Wild’, I decided that what we really like watching on TV is sometimes quite shocking. Just like generations before us who have freely watched notoriously vulgar entertainment such as public hangings and bear baiting, we instead are allowed to watch the suffering of fellow human beings in the comfort of our own homes.

‘Alone in the Wild’: A program where a man is left for dead in what reviewers called ‘bear land’ (obviously a pleasant destination) for 12 weeks with only the clothes on his back and a rucksack full of things that would help him live if he was nearly dead, no larger than the one that I will be taking to Glastonbury Festival this year.

When watching ‘Alone in the Wild’ the adverts arrived and then followed a period of boredom where I decided to shout, as part of an experiment, to my girlfriend who was in the next room:

‘A bear has got him!’

At this point my girlfriend came running in with the expectancy and hope to see a man being ripped to shreds by a bear. Unfortunately I had tricked her but proved that what we like to sit and watch at night is humans getting as close to dying as is physically possible.

The same is the case with the ‘Bear Grylls’ series. This kind of program is one of the few programs that will appeal to both ends of the audience spectrum. The intellectually capable who admire the skill it takes to ascend down a mountain whilst still wounded from being stung by a poisonous animal. And the not so capable who like the way the guy on their screens flirts with death frequently until yet again – he nearly gets killed. Fantastic.

These series though, however crude they may be are very clever. They have a balance between a program which people see as interesting and educational and a program which people see as fun. This is the kind of balance that may even deem the program acceptable to let your kids stay up that little later for, because of course they may need how to make a tree trap one day if they were to fall out of a plane into a forest full of predators.

Perhaps Ray Mears should add a bit of excitement into his books or series. Maybe he could get chased, he could get nearly stung in the head or eaten by a tiger…But then again I can’t help myself believing that the adrenaline rush would get to that poor, peaceful man’s head and he would just simply run off the end of a cliff. His ‘old man’s beard’* or edible berries wouldn’t save him then would they.

*’Old man’s beard’ – a material that is produced by a tree that Ray Mears refers to in almost every program he makes. It helps with fire lighting and looks like wool or white hair, hence the name.

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