CRACKING WISE: Surviving reality TV

  By David Mendez

If you’ve been watching much TV lately, surely you’ve noticed the trend: Survival shows are big. Ridiculously big.

Look at the shows that air on Discovery Channel: “Dual Survival,” “Worst Case Scenario,” “Man vs. Wild” and (coming soon!) “Beyond Survival.” All of them star large, burly men who could kill me in an instant if they learned I was disparaging them, so I’ll refrain from doing so.

Other popular shows explore how humans react when society breaks down, like “The Colony,” “Survivor” and, of course, “Jersey Shore.” (There is no way you can look me in the eye and say “Jersey Shore” doesn’t represent our society’s failure. When a girl with a failed beehive hairdo who looks like an overcooked turkey becomes a cultural icon, something has gone wrong in our world.)

And damn it, I’m addicted to these shows.

I can’t lie, Pima. I often think about ditching this life of mine and striking out on my own in the desert to live off the land before one day returning to civilization as a grizzled, nature-hardened Eastwood-esque man’s man.

But then I realize that I’m out of shape, practically blind and liable to have my bones picked clean by the only man-eating jackrabbit in the state within a week.

It doesn’t help that I’m too broke to afford basic supplies, too lazy to get decent survival training and couldn’t tell the difference between poison oak and poison ivy if you gave me two guesses.

So I watch these shows, filling my head with impossible-to-replicate survival techniques “Pssh. Can’t be that hard to whittle a canoe with a machete.” I remain confident that I’ll be humanity’s savior when things come crashing down, quietly ignoring the fact that I can’t install a simple doorknob.

Then I watch a show like “Man, Woman, Wild,” which follows a former Special Forces vet (of course) and his British newscaster wife as they’re dropped into some remote area. That’s when I realize I am, without a doubt, screwed.

The first episode I saw had them in the highlands of Mexico, fighting dehydration by eating cacti and drinking their own pee.

She balked, of course, as would most civilians.

Eventually, she suffered heat stroke and the show was forced to call in an emergency crew to make sure she didn’t, y’know, die. Though that doubtless would’ve created compelling television.

My point is that society appears headed for an eventual breakdown but no one seems willing to stave it off. They prefer instead to shout about their discomfort (illegal aliens, mosques, Brett Favre) or plug their noses and accept disgusting solutions that may keep them alive until the next episode (immigration reform, religious tolerance, a “three retirements and you’re out” rule).

These shows provide us with a sense, however delusional, that we just might be able to survive in awfully harsh conditions. And, if we trust the people next to us, no matter how much we disagree with their methods, we’ve got a better shot.

In the meantime, I’m going to hang around and see what they blow up next on “Mythbusters.”

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