3

I've only seen the UK Channel 4 version of Alone, a survivalist game show where contestants must last as long as possible alone in the wilderness.

Aside from the threat of hunger and sickness or minor injury, which can be dealt with by the guys who arrive by boats when someone "taps out", there is often mention of the threat of bears and wolves nearby. (The latest episode also had a storm which blew a tree down on top of a position where one contestant had previously sheltered.)

I find it very hard to believe that the makers of the programme would put the contestants in danger of serious injury or death from bear or wolf attack just for the sake of a game show.

While I'm sure some editing for the sake of making compelling viewing goes on, as with all "reality TV" programmes, my question is specifically about the seemingly life-threatening dangers that are referred to. Are they real?

2
  • 1
    About as real as any other reality show. That said attacks on humans by bears and wolves are incredibly rare. They generally only defend themselves rather than attack arbitrarily
    – Paulie_D
    Aug 23, 2023 at 14:15
  • 2
    The answer is "totally non-existent". TV shows have a legal duty to prevent any risk to their participants
    – Valorum
    Aug 23, 2023 at 14:36

2 Answers 2

3

According to Channel 4, each of the contestants was constantly monitored and received extensive training on first aid. In the history of the show (ten seasons and counting) there's never been a single animal attack and the contestants are also provided with animal repellent devices and sprays.

The show's intention is to create the illusion of hazard, rather than putting the contestants in any real danger.

  • Each competitor had to carry a GPS device at all times, which allowed the production team to monitor the competitors’ whereabouts

  • Competitors were allowed to choose 10 survival items from a list of 53 essential items

  • Each competitor was given 5 cameras with multiple mounts, enabling them to film themselves by holding, wearing or fixing cameras to objects nearby

  • Competitors were given full safety training on the best way to handle animal encounters. They also had a first aid kit for emergencies and were given remote trauma first aid training.

Channel 4 - Interesting facts about Alone

Contestants were in twice-daily contact with the makers.

The GPS device could be used to contact the production team in case of an emergency, along with a satellite phone and radio. Both were pre-programmed to only enable contact with the production team.

Competitors ‘checked in’ with the production team via text on the GPS device every morning and at sunset. Failure to check in would result in an emergency response by the Health and Safety team.

Where is Alone UK filmed? The 2023 Channel 4 series shot in spooky wilderness

Other editions of the show (on History Channel, for example) show that the contestants are actually quite close to civilisation, and within less than an hour's walk of the nearest urban area, town or trafficked road. In the event of a genuine emergency, they can summon help within minutes from the production team, or just walk out of the forest if needs be.

2

Beside what producers must do and as already mentioned by Channel 4 or producers/crew members (safety devices, health support...etc), the producers are, by the law, required to protect everyone involved in a show (crew, public and competitors):

The federal Occupational Health and Safety Act requires employers to provide a “safe and healthful” workplace. LA Times -- safety on set

I can't find a proof to back this up, so the following is only speculation. But, based upon shows like the Red Bull diving (where frogmen are waiting and watching for the competitors in case they have a problem when diving and hitting the water), I'd say that security and safety measures are taken, and, like for health issues (paramedics waiting and on alert) that some professional and perfectly trained persons are watching them, preventing any hazards and threats (such as with wildlife animals).

So, the threats aren't that real. They exist, they give the impression of being big thrills, but in case a threat to the competitors' safety occurs, the crew members will take action to avoid further complications. For simple reasons, and one is money. If a person is killed and responsability of the producers is acknowledged, they can be sued and pay a fine1. Then, you have public opinion. If people are injured, it'll probably be ok, as the "big thrill that ended well". But if someone dies because the producers didn't pay enough attention or took too many risks, then, they'll be so much criticized, vilified and demonized on social media that the show might end. Reputation is something they can't waste. (and money too).

More robust safety policies have been introduced to the production since. Survivalists are now required to check in twice daily via a satellite device. Emergency-response teams are located no more than 45 minutes away, though in practice it’s a tough proximity to maintain. When a survivalist in the sixth season, Nathan Donnelly, was forced to tap out owing to a late-night shelter fire, a severe storm meant that the extraction team couldn’t reach him until morning. During a shoot, production base camp is typically staffed with a skeleton crew: safety teams plus one or two producers who monitor participant progress, observe the weather, capture B-roll, and log footage from the memory cards swiped during medical checks. These checks increase in frequency as time goes on. Vulture - reality TV - Alone

It might seem astonishing that there haven't been more casualties on such high-risk productions. But Ian Dunkley, commissioner for Channel 4's Alone, as well as The Island with Bear Grylls and Eden: Paradise Lost, says that on all the shows he's worked on, there's an enormous amount of preparation involved. "Once they were in situ there were various health and safety protocols in place." Dangerous reality shows

Dangerous wildlife must be avoided and that helps avoiding more dangerous situations. If no one has been seriously injured in a confrontation with an animal, it seems logical that producers and crew members pick carefully the areas they'll play in. They have safe areas around the location. No doubt they monitor wildlife and make sure they don't fool around on bears' or wolves' territory and compete with them.

After that, there was a casualty on Koh Lanta—the French version of Survivor—in 2013 when contestant Gerald Babin fell ill during a game of tug-of-war. He was airlifted to the hospital but was pronounced dead soon after, and the series was swiftly canceled. The crew of Dual Survival had their own survival situation going on, as they were once charged by an aggressive elephant which was then calmed down by a local ranger. About Survival Shows

1. "A report from WorkSafeBC found that Fox had "failed to conduct a risk assessment addressing safety controls, speed of the motorcycle, and equipment limitations," had "failed to ensure that the stunt performer was wearing safety headgear" and failed to provide "adequate supervision" for Harris. Producers were fined nearly $300,000." source and deaths on set

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .