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‘I was going into anaphylactic shock’: The inside story of TV’s most dangerous reality shows

By Daisy Jones

16 Aug 2023 · 6 min read

informed Summary

  1. Extreme survival reality TV, where contestants face harsh conditions and dangerous situations, are growing in popularity. Outlast, Survivor, and Alone have been commissioned for new series in the UK.

It’s nearly midnight and Kaila Cumings is curled up naked outside in the dust. She can hear noises beside her head: hot breaths, sniffing, a growl. There are two male lions circling her shelter, which is composed of just a few thin branches piled together. Earlier that day, lions killed and ate two poachers in the surrounding area of Limpopo, South Africa. Now they’d tasted human flesh, Cumings had been warned by camp rangers that they may be looking for more. So she waits, naked and afraid, which is, incidentally, the title of the Discovery+ survival show that she is appearing on: Naked and Afraid XL.

The popular franchise – in which survivalists tough it out in the wilderness, totally nude – isn’t the only TV series you’d sit and watch at home and think, this is batshit. Over the years, we’ve been presented with all manner of dangerous situations on screen, many of them involving extreme, punishing conditions. More recently, such shows have gained new popularity. Explosive endurance competition Outlast arrived on Netflix in March, and has been commissioned for a second series. Survivor, first aired in 2000, is coming back to the UK this year via the BBC. And we now have a UK version of Alone (already popular in the US and Australia) on Channel 4, in which 11 people must fend for themselves in remote north-west Canada, among wild bears and wolves. The last contestant standing wins £100,000.

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