On Sunday night, as The Newsroom self-immolated, Homeland erupted in violence, and The Affair continued to simmer in its own flavorless adulterous juices, the Discovery Channel counterprogrammed so-called “prestige TV” with perhaps the boldest gambit in televised man-versus-unsuspecting-nature history: Eaten Alive, one thrill-seeking herpetologist’s obsessive quest to be FULLY DEVOURED by the LARGEST SNAKE IN THE WORLD, the GIANT GREEN ANACONDA.
But first, a crucial warning to dissuade the susceptible viewer from assembling an experienced team of highly skilled adventurers, setting forth into the darkest, most dangerous regions of the Amazon, and jamming oneself head-first into the distended maw of the king of all constriction-loving reptiles.
How ready are you to watch a man be CONSUMED WHOLE by NATURE’S PERFECT GOBBLING MACHINE after reading that? Pretty ready, right? You’re eyeing the fat, juicy apple in that fruit bowl on your coffee table, opening your mouth as wide as your wildly imperfect jaw will allow, and cursing your Creator for not allow you to unhinge your mandible and deep-throat the produce of Eden. Anacondas, as a rule, get to have all the fun, swallowing-wise. (That is, unless they are being mercilessly pursued through their peaceful breeding grounds in the Amazon’s nigh-unreachable Floating Forest by some wild-eyed TV “conservationists.”)
Well, if you were really ready, like ready ready, you only had about another hour and 40 minutes of machete-twirling grab-assing in the jungle — scary spiders! The wet spark-farts of mildly annoyed electric eels! Crazy-itchy bug bites that defy even the finest calamine lotion! — before our hero Paul Rosolie strapped on his Bluetooth-enabled body armor, gave a confident thumbs-up to the camera, and got to the heart-palpitating business of mud-humping a pre-captured 20-foot anaconda1 until it got so tired of being molested it had no choice but to grudgingly attempt to death-hug him.
Their original target, a semi-mythical 25-footer named CHUMANA — as they point out with awe, that’s the length of a VERY SMALL PLANE — declined to participate in the special, because it has some dignity (and a competent agent).
And death-hug him it did. Sort of? Once a well-armored, Tyvek-baggied Rosolie and his crew exhausted every possible stalling tactic and finally laid down in the muck and got to a-tussling, his serpentine adversary began to coil around him, as if urged on by the audience at home screaming Eat this thumb-twiddling motherfucker already, we gotta watch Sorkin fix the news!!! at their televisions. Man and beast became one writhing mass of limbs and scales and forbidden desire as Rosolie breathlessly — the ‘conda was exerting force equivalent to a VERY SMALL SCHOOL BUS PARKED ON HIS CHEST, according to the monitoring equipment — narrated the proceedings with far-too-erotic zeal. Things got seriously uncomfortable for a while there:
So, finally, the moment we were waiting for: The beast took its shot at Rosolie’s head. It was ready to feed. It was ready to unhinge its jaw up to 180 degrees (thanks, fun-fact-filled 100-plus minutes of pre-swallow entertainment!), wrap itself around his helmet, and slowly (very, very slowly) work itself down his immobilized body until all of our tasty snake-chaser disappeared inside its churning gullet, ready to be dissolved by POWERFUL STOMACH JUICES.
This is what we came for! A nightmare creature, stirred to reluctant action by the prodding of a TV crew, delivering digestive justice to the chain-mail-swaddled yahoo dumb enough to wear a 20-foot river monster for a hat. CHOMP CHOMP SNAKE-DOPE GO BYE-BYE.
But then: an unexpected problem. A crushed arm, ready to break. A desperate plea to base camp: OUCHIE! Get me outta this thing!
So they do. They quickly untangle the anaconda from their squirming leader before any damage can be done. The arm — and the exhausted adventurer dangling from it — is saved, if somewhat boo-booed.
And that’s it. The snake did not, as promised — nay, as hoped — eat anyone alive. Maybe next time, if they ever find CHUMANA, the true quarry of our charlatan Ahab. But not this Sunday night.
Some viewers — people who actually value their time, not those of us who are vocationally accustomed to flushing untold hours down the basic-cable toilet at the drop of a pith helmet — may have bristled at the ultimate proportion of guy-not-being-swallowed-by-a-snake time to guy-being-swallowed-by-a-snake time; they did, after all, sign up for Eaten Alive, not The Great Giant Green Anaconda Goose Chase. We sympathize with these folk. We share in their disappointment. We hoped just as fiercely as they did for this dude to paddle his little inflatable canoe straight to Swallowtown, and we tasted the same coppery blood in our mouths.
Alas, it was not to be. The only thing being consumed was our temporary attention.
And, uh, this guy.
Thank you, 1-800-CONTACTS, for salvaging a very small piece of our evening. Eaten Alive could have learned so much from you.