Provocative title should engender some curiosity (and at least a few critical cheap shots) toward this Discovery series, the channel’s latest stab at finding ways to make dehydration and hypothermia hip for the kids. Using a mix of poorly acted re-creations and first-person accounts by survivors, the premiere yields a moment or two of crude drama simply based on the dire scenario. Even with the whole indomitable-human-spirit thing, however, it’s hard to foresee this 10-part series enjoying much of a following.
The premiere deals with a 1982 incident involving a 58-foot yacht that sank in a heavy storm during a trip from Annapolis, Md., to Florida. The five crew members onboard made it into a rubber dingy and were faced with the challenge of enduring for days with no food or water in shark-infested seas.
Only two survived the ordeal, and both participate in recounting their story, which survivor Deborah Scaling Kiley also has documented in a book, “Untamed Seas.” “It was as if God was spitting on us, laughing at our situation,” she says at one point, when rain briefly falls on the parched quintet and just as quickly stops.
As has become standard with these productions, the narrative accounts are illustrated by re-enactments as well as computer imagery regarding the science of what transpired, and while the latter was incomplete in the preview, it’s the former that virtually sinks the show. At one point, in fact, it becomes clear that if the sharks don’t get the bad-luck crew, the overacting probably will.
This isn’t to say what these folks experienced isn’t harrowing, but these hybrids mixing dramatic and documentary techniques only enjoy a sense of authenticity if both halves work, which isn’t the case at least in the maiden voyage (rather sensationally titled “Shark Survivor”). Future installments include the tale of Yossi Ghinsberg, who parlayed his experience being stranded in the Amazon into a career as a motivational speaker.
It’s easy to sympathize with Discovery’s plight, seeking as it is to attract younger demos to material that has historically skewed to an older audience. Being edgier than just another “Shark Week” is obviously one way to court that MTV crowd, but aside from serving up a reminder to appreciate that roof overhead and microwaveable dinner, this waterlogged opener doesn’t provide much to merit staying afloat.