For many years, the Discovery Channel was home to genuinely educational programming which was never tawdry or exploitative. But not anymore — as the network’s new program Naked and Afraid shows.
The days when Discovery Channel offered documentaries about everything from housecats to flowers to steam locomotives are long gone. Today, the network is home to allegedly “educational” programs like Amish Mafia, Pot Cops, and Texas Car Wars.
Nudity also seems to be an interest of the Discovery Exploitation Channel, with the program Naked Castaway already on the schedule. And now, the network is moving beyond merely tacky names into making nudity an integral part of a program. The new program Naked and Afraid, which premiered Sunday, June 23 at 10:20 p.m. ET, strands a man and a woman who have never met on an island without food, water, or clothing, where the two are left to fend for themselves for three weeks without assistance.
While the premise of enduring exile on an island is hardly a new one – the program is essentially a rip-off of CBS’ Survivor, though with a cast of only two people – the nudity element is particularly gratuitous, not to mention humiliating. “It was extremely difficult, the whole being naked in front of a stranger,” states contestant Clint Jivoin. Nor is Discovery ignorant of the sleazy potential of the program: “Will the nude castaways have the brains and brawn to endure the harsh conditions? Or will the challenges prove to be overBARE-ing?” smirks the show’s website.
The program also titillates viewers with the possibility of sex between the strangers: “These brazen and bold couples will get acquainted with each other and their new surroundings very quickly,” says the website. And while video clips show pixilation of breasts and genitals, the point remains: the entire premise of the show is two total strangers forced to be naked with each other for an extended period of time.
Discovery may claim it is providing programming about survival in the wild; but a genuinely serious program would not need nude cast members to make for compelling viewing.