Tuesday, 7 June 2011

And Thoreau's Mum Did His Laundry Every Week

Paleo-Survival TV has been on my mind this week and while I would happily sell what few scraps of dignity I have left, and appear on pretty much any one of them for a sandwich and a glass of tap water I've got to say I just don't get it. Sure they are entertaining, I love watching the hippy and the butch military guy bicker like a pair of fishwives and I could watch the posh boy eating rotting meat for hours. The whole genre poses one question, why the pretend adversity? There are lots of things I've learned from the idiots lantern, TV can educate and entertain at the same time, so why is the bar set so low?

The legendary Tim Smith of Jack Mountain must have been musing on the same thing as he posted a link to this article in Mother Jones.

Like any TV genre-of-the-moment, the roster of primitive-skills programming represents a series of variations on a theme. The ur-example is arguably Man vs. Wild, which premiered in the US on Discovery Channel in March 2006. In each episode, the buff and charismatic Grylls is dropped into an isolated and menacing location, then forced to find shelter, improvise tools, and eat carcass scraps, all the while offering lessons on how intrepid pioneers might have handled the situation. The show is phenomenally entertaining, owing largely to the schoolboy enthusiasm of the former British Special Forces host, who manages to sound exuberant even when delivering schlocky, back-from-commercial bumper lines like, "I've just dragged a dead sheep out of an Irish bog."

The TV executives that I've met are very very good at talking up 'cross platform' broadcasting, but when's it going to arrive? There's a HOOJ audience of people like me, and probably you, who want to learn more and are deeply cynical of the pretend urgency of these guys and the fake way in which they offer the irresponsible illusion of preparedness. By faking their way out of another supposedly life threatening situation they are telling a generation of viewers, for example, that its pretty easy to climb back out of the freezing waters and onto the ice. Bullshit.

How would you like to see it done differently?

Your pal

PS To who ever left the title of this post on the comments on the Mother Jones site, Genius!

Picture credit