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Why would anyone want to be 'Naked and Afraid'?

Published July 17, 2014 12:47 pm

TV • It's not about the nudity, participants on the Discovery Channel survival show insist.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Beverly Hills, Calif. • There's one big question hanging over the Discovery Channel series "Naked and Afraid" — why?

Not "Why would Discovery do the show?" That's obvious. Put naked people on TV — even with the private parts pixelated — and put "Naked" in the title and people will watch.

The question is, "Why would the participants strip down and spend three weeks hungry, dirty, hot, cold and covered in bug bites?"

"What I always say is, 'This is who we are. This is what we are made of,' " said participant Jeff Zausch. "Some people were made to be race car drivers. Some people were made to be CEOs of companies. We were made to push the limits of what's humanly possible. This is what we do in our everyday lives, and so to be on a show like this was just natural."

What? This is what you do in your everyday life? You walk around naked while cameras follow you?

Of course not. But the people who are selected to participate in "Naked and Afraid" are chosen because they are survival experts.

"The No. 1 reward of this show was the pride that we got from completing the challenge," Zausch insisted. "The feeling on Day 21 when we were rescued was absolutely the best day of our life. That's why we did this challenge."

(New episodes of "Naked and Afraid" air Sundays at 11 p.m. on Discovery; repeats air throughout the week.)

There's no prize money. "Naked and Afraid" is not a competition show. The participants are paid, although they wouldn't reveal how much.

Participant Eva Rupert maintained that doing the show is a "life-changing experience" that is "like stripping yourself down to the very core of your existence."

"It reveals a layer of yourself that you cannot know in any other way, shape or form," she said. "It's only until you are pulled down to the rawest, most central core of your existence that you can really learn who you are. … That's how you grow as a person, and that's how you develop and change and become even a greater sense of yourself than what you already are."

Right. This is what happens when you get naked and go on TV.

It's more than a little bit funny to hear Eileen O'Neill, the group president of the Discovery Channel, Science Channel ad Velocity, talk about "Naked and Afraid."

"Any survivalist will tell you that one of the most important elements in survival is, of course, shelter," she said. "And the first level of shelter is clothing. Take away that, and it's the ultimate survival challenge.

"Yes, the title 'Naked & Afraid' may grab your attention at first, but in any episode, you'll see very quickly that the sheer will and determination of our survivalist, or sometimes the lack of determination, is what really makes this show win."

"Our idea was to come up with the most authentic survival challenge ever," said executive producer David Garfinkle, "and I think we've done that. It's incredibly difficult, as you know, but it's real, and it's raw. And for us, the nudity, within the first hour, it's kind of forgotten because now they have to really survive for the next 21 days with no food, no water, no shelter."

Garfinkle actually insisted, "It's not about the nudity.

"We never intended this to be an exploitative show. This is a family show. Families all around the country, all around the world, are watching this show because it's not about the nudity. It's about the survival."

And the people on the show aren't doing it because they're desperate to be to be on TV, even if they have to take off their clothes to do it. Because "Naked and Afraid" is not about being naked, apparently.

spierce@sltrib.com

Twitter: @ScottDPierce