“Born in the Wild” joins a growing legion of reality shows designed to create the illusion of real jeopardy when, if you think about it at all, having a camera crew hovering nearby undermines the conceit. But the larger issue for this Lifetime series — about women who choose to give birth far from modern medical conveniences — is that it seems particularly ill timed, coming amid a pushback against the anti-vaccination movement. Put another way: There are people out there with real problems. Why should anyone give a damn about those who appear determined to (potentially) create their own?
“For thousands of years, women gave birth without doctors or drugs,” the first couple we meet, Peter and Audrey Bird, note by way of explaining their decision to create a mini-drama subtitled “Little Fetus on the Prairie” by having their third child in the Alaskan wilderness, 150 miles (we’re told) from the nearest hospital.
Of course, the “This is really no big deal” argument doesn’t quite mesh with the approach of the producers, who — as the dramatic scoring indicates — want the audience to feel like things could go terribly wrong. Or as Lifetime’s press release put it: “No inductions, no epidural … just expectant mothers facing and giving birth in the arms of Mother Nature.”
While the wonder of childbirth is calibrated to yield the happiest of endings, the buildup to the actual moment — complete with a lot of screaming and obscured nether regions — almost can’t help but feel like marking time in advance of the main event.
Although the couples will have midwives, the question of specific contingencies in the case of a difficult delivery has been kept somewhat vague. Some viewers will no doubt embrace this as a curiosity, and others as an example of the pioneer spirit; still, the most logical reaction is to wince at putting an infant’s life at risk to essentially score “We don’t need no stinkin’ doctors” points.
So while the project is conceptually an attention-getter for Lifetime, in terms of the already questionable paths some of the channel’s unscripted fare has wandered, “Born in the Wild” doesn’t exactly do much to class up the brand.
“We’re not something odd,” the dad, Peter, insists during an interview.
Maybe not, but with all due respect, if this show wasn’t going to portray the participants as odd, it’s a pretty good bet it never would have made it out of the incubator.