Naked and Afraid: Survivalists Go Commando vs. Mother Nature
We begin by getting a few of the inevitable puns out of the way:
Stripped of the bare necessities, the participants on Naked and Afraid must survive in the wild for 21 days. Will they put their survival skills and fortitude on display, or will their weaknesses be exposed?
Naked and Afraid attempts to explore the reality TV genre with a touch of the cerebral (it airs on Discovery Channel, after all). Despite its provocative title, the show doesn’t exploit sexuality for its own sake. With the exception of the occasional derriere shot, the naked bodies are digitally blurred out. The nudity of the survivalists is actually in context – the challenge deprives them of modern-day essentials and creature comforts, right down to their clothing.
At the same time, remember that this is still reality TV. Clashing egos, heated arguments and emotionally overwrought monologues all have co-starring roles.
How the Scenario Unfolds
The standard setup pairs a man and a woman in one of the planet’s most inhospitable climates – arid desert, steamy jungle, snake-infested tropical island, etc. The survivalists must work together to endure the harsh conditions and, on the final day, make a harrowing journey to an extraction point where they’ll be taken back to civilization. In the meantime, they have to provide their own food, water and shelter. If they can’t hack it, they throw in the towel and get evacuated early.
All the participants have formal survival training or relevant experience. Military veterans show up frequently, as do “extreme outdoors” enthusiasts. It’s through these participants, and the on-camera narration, that the show serves up some truly interesting facts about roughing it in the wild. Viewers have the opportunity to learn quite a bit about survival techniques, wildlife, ecology and more.
Once more, though, don’t forget the reality TV component. Some of the survivalists seem to have been chosen primarily for their volatile personalities, and the sparks that fly from the frequent Alpha Male-Earth Mother pairings are too predictable. Under those circumstances, the participants have to survive not only the perilous conditions but also each other.
Boneheads and Blowups
Speaking of personalities, it’s often the less competent or likeable survivalists who provide the show with some of its most memorable moments. The highlights/lowlights include:
Breaking Borneo – Self-proclaimed bad boy Puma gets seriously ill and is forced to leave the show after drinking unsterilized water, a major no-no in survivalist circles. His early departure leaves partner Julie in the lurch.
Hearts of Darkness – Carrie unintentionally serves up the show’s most popular sound bite when she accuses Tom of being “diluted.” (She meant to say “deluded” and it only gets funnier each time she repeats the accusation.)
Himalayan Hell – Hakim identifies himself as “the black MacGyver” and makes several references to his ninja training. He also combines “ninja” and “ingenuity” to create the word “ninjanuity.” He does all these things with a straight face.
Damned in Africa – Jeff and Eva nearly burn down their campsite trying to cook snake meat. To add insult to injury, the snake meat is burned beyond edibility.
Dunes of Despair – Honora, frustrated by laid-back partner Matt, unleashes a brutal verbal assault questioning his character, intelligence and hygiene. She claims his B.O. was offensive before three days in 100-degree heat without showering.
Want to Get Naked and Afraid?
With nearly 30 episodes under its belt, so to speak, the show seems to have a lock on its Sunday night time slot. Rather than waiting for reruns, you can catch up on past episodes through DIRECTV On Demand.
If you like the idea of watching stark-naked survivalists in a more intelligent format than the typical reality show, Naked and Afraid might be worth your time.