Snake stunt bit off more than it could chew


Discovery Channel’s ‘Eaten Alive’ show offered a titillating promise: Paul Rosolie, an Amazon conservationist and snake expert, would wear a protective suit and be eaten alive by a giant anaconda.

The first 90 minutes of the two-hour special detailed a truly suspenseful hunt for a suitable snake and the final 30 minutes were dedicated to a snake biting his helmet and then Rosolie calling off the stunt without a second attempt.

Mr. Rosolie’s idea was to wear a protective suit that would save him from the anaconda’s bone-crushing and heart-exploding constriction and also its digestive juices were it to eat him whole, as we were promised. But the snake didn’t get that far.

It crushed him alright, but just as its head attached to his helmet and was getting ready to swallow his head, Mr. Rosolie said that it was about to snap off his arm — he had taken off protective gauntlets earlier to get a better range of movement —and the process was stopped.

Animal rights activists were up in arms about the special, but there was no visible physical harm to the snake.

Mr. Rosolie and his crew installed a pressure gauge on his suit and cameras in his helmet and couched this experiment as a way to measure its crushing force and get more information about its digestive habits.

The show was well shot, really exciting nature footage, if you could stomach the fact that these people were hunting a wild animal to get it to perform a circus act on television. Mr. Rosolie said that his intent was to draw attention to conservation efforts in the Amazon.

The programme showed several shots of beautiful and exotic wildlife and plants in need of protection, but would many have tuned in without the promise of seeing a man digested by a beast on live television? The special ended with Rosolie admitting that they didn’t find the giant snake he was looking for and teasing that, now that he knows his suit will work, he’s ready to try again.

Just like any blockbuster, this is already setting us up for a sequel. The problem is, will people tune in again after their disappointment? Television is relying more and more on stunts and “events” to get viewers.

This seems to be a pretty harsh trend. Viewers are excited by the spectacle, but once they find out what is really happening, they are hard to lure back.

Now that it knows there’s no eating in ‘Eaten Alive’, the audience will probably move on to its next televised feast of insanity.

— © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2014

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Printable version | Jan 18, 2020 3:51:35 PM |

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