Review: ‘Naked & Afraid’

Naked & Afraid
Discovery Channel

Discovery adventure series sets possible record for digitally obscured genitalia

Just the title “Naked & Afraid” already sounds like a ratings winner for Discovery Channel, if one that will no doubt be easily confused with latenight fare available on Cinemax. Putting the budget for digitally obscured genitalia to the test (think “Borat,” only not consciously played for laughs), each episode will pit a pair of survivalists against an exotic locale, trying to hold out for three weeks with no food, water or (drum roll, please) clothes. What ensues is pretty typical of the genre, but it’s still kind of a risible kick, if only for how seriously the show takes itself.

A self-described “Everest of survival challenges,” the series promises — and then frequently restates — that the participants are accompanied by only a small crew with “clear instructions not to intervene unless there is a medical emergency.” In other words, it’s very important to believe these people might die, even if the constant repetition of the stakes sounds like the template for a drinking game.

The premiere pairs Shane Lewis, 40, with Kim Shelton, 22, in the jungle of Costa Rica. He insists on calling her “kiddo,” and professes to have little respect for twentysomethings. They meet cute — already naked, out in the wild — and proceed to snipe at each other while enduring pounding rain, foreboding elements and the struggle to find food.

Unlike a lot of similarly themed fare (see TNT’s “72 Hours”), “Naked” doesn’t build a contest into the format; the sheer challenge, combined with exotic travelogue and intended drama, are presumed to be enough to attract viewers, along with wondering exactly what that blurred video might be obscuring. About the closest the show comes to scorekeeping is in updating the duo’s PSR (Primitive Survival Rating, naturally) based on how they perform under the circumstances.

“It’s all about speed and how big your balls are,” Shane says as he prepares to kill a poisonous snake, conjuring a rather distracting image.

Beyond reality-TV antecedents (a la “Survivor’s” Richard Hatch), the most obvious cinematic parallels would be to “Castaway,” with a nod to “The Naked Prey” — that 1966 adventure oddity, with a stripped-down Cornel Wilde being hunted by murderous African tribesmen. Inasmuch as each episode is self-contained, those touchstones are significant, since the audience needs to do a bit of the work to fill in narrative gaps.

Still, the real goal of “Naked & Afraid” (a six-episode order, with different couples and venues) is as bare as its protagonists, intended to tap into our imagination about being shipwrecked, and provide Discovery a titillating concept to launch after daredevil Nik Wallenda completes (or doesn’t) his live high-wire walk across the Grand Canyon.

Discovery brass could try to argue “Naked’s” back-to-nature motif is more educational and illuminating than that, but attempting to do so would be a pretty good indicator of just how big their balls are.

Naked & Afraid

(Series; Discovery Channel, Sun. June 23, 10:20 p.m.)

Production

Produced by Renegade 83.

Crew

Executive producers, David Garfinkle, Jay Renfroe, Steve Rankin; co-executive producer, Robert Michael Kelly; supervising producer, Mathilde Bittner; supervising story producer, Richard Albrecht; camera, Derek Carver; music, Devin Powers. 60 MIN.

Cast

Narrator: Michael Brown.

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  1. Too bad the women’s scores are always lower than the mans. Stupid stupid stupid to support this type of masochist attitude.

  2. rach mars says:

    wow never watching this show again i dont even know how this made it past the media this is an all time low in reality tv and it just had to be discovery i saw the reviews and it should be rated R no kid should watch this its gross and creepy on so many levels

  3. papreps says:

    total bullbleep. he puts a thong on and she’s in clothes and they still say the people are naked. not that I want to see either one naked (well, maybe her) but don’t say they are naked when FOR THE MOST PART they wear more clothes than you see on the beach in Wildwood, N.J. on any summer day.

  4. Steve says:

    TV exists nowadays for cheap thrills or scripted temper tantrums. This show appears to have both. Discovery used to be a cool place to learn something. Check out Survivorman… no drama, no wangs and hooters flopping about, just good old fashioned educational TV.

    We as the audience of today’s television need to tell these channels we want more intellect and less smut.

    I really do not appreciate the daytime commercials for this show blazing butts and blurry bits across my young ones eyes. Nudity is a reality of life, but we as parents should have more standardized control over when our children are exposed to it. Currently my plan of action is to not turn on Discovery. I didn’t know it was legal to show someones butt in a commercial. Preparation H, commence your advertising campaign.

  5. Overall its a quality show and viewers shouldn’t be alarmed by the claims of nudity. Even from a cynical perspective it has been obvious after the first two episodes that the level of nudity displayed is hardly noticeable, and pales in comparison to other shows where women and men have plenty of clothes on and yet are ten times more provocative.
    Really enjoy this series and can’t wait for more!
    Don’t be so closed minded. You might just learn something.

  6. mkohana says:

    I have to express my disappointment regarding this show being on the discovery channel for one and having its advertisements running constantly all day while i have my younger step children and grandchildren around. This was one of the last channels we have on cable that we enjoyed immensely because we didn’t have to worry about disgusting inappropriate adds or commercials, now we can’t allow the kids to even watch that channel when not around as we have to worry about what they are being exposed too. I don’t have a problem with nudity and what your show is about, its the time of day and who’s being exposed to it. I’m sure in time, we will be seeing pornography out in the open one day as they already advertise viagra, twisters and condoms on other channels. Pretty sad what television has become, extremely shameful with no class at all.

  7. r racht says:

    liked both of the shows like to be in one of those shows cant wait to see the one in africa ima nudist and love it

  8. Kim Shelton got her survival training at the Anake Outdoor School – http://www.wildernessawareness.org/adult/anake_outdoor_school.html

  9. lynae says:

    This is bullshit…you ARE exploiting nudity…. why can’t these people wear clothes? Is this all about ratings? I WILL NOT WATCH THIS SHOW AND I’M GOING TO STOP WATCHING YOUR CHANNEL PERIOD!!!!

  10. jk says:

    By the end of the show I couldn’t stand shane and his crying and whining. Hope they’re not all going to be like this.

    • Lindsay Thompson says:

      What a baby! Seriously get over it! You came into this world with nothing and you should learn how to survive with nothing.

      • christopher says:

        I know really who cares if there naked… grow up. I agree with Lindsey, they put them their naked to get the point across of having absolutely nothing on a deserted island.

      • Lindsay Thompson says:

        Sorry this is meant for Lynae (the above comment)

  11. DM says:

    So ironic that Shane went on a rant about how women whine and complain and are weak…he was the biggest whiner and complainer on the show. He talked about how he had to do all the work when Kim was sick, and ignored the fact that earlier in the show he sat on a rock shivering and complaining while she gathered firewood. She seems much stronger mentally than he does. I agree with Ron Escamillo…he might have the skills necessary to survive in nature, but she had the skills necessary to survive Shane!

  12. Ron Escamillo says:

    I was intrigued by the show, the seriousness of having to depend on the land to survive. But I hsd to turn the channel before the end because this Shane character whined and complained do much I was shocked that Kim didn’t crush his skull in his sleep or let him burn in the shelter. I give her credit for remaining patient with him.

    • christopher says:

      seriously that dude was the biggest pussy I ever seen on a survival show, he cried and acted like a little kid the whole show, and after kim catches lobster like she been saying was the ticket from the beginning this guy decides to blurt out “the ocean is where our food is gunna be!” when the day before he ran scared out of the water saying it was a waste of time. this dude pissed me off so bad, I hope everyone that knows him in real life tells him how much of a whiny pussy and a idiot he looked like.

    • Valerie says:

      Yes, we noticed that Shane was the biggest whiner. Kim kept a calm head throughout. She was quite mature. We typed it and we did not see the final PSR score. Can you tell me what it was? We know in the beginning of the program, Kim had a score of 56% and Shane had a score of 78%. We believed that Shane’s score had to decrease significantly while Kim’s score would increase. We want to know the final numbers. Anyone have that?

  13. Curious George says:

    Well if they blur out so much of the video isn’t that false advertising, kind of like a commercial for Crayola Crayons shot in black & white.

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