Discovery defends 'Eaten Alive'
Not feeling satiated by Discovery’s Eaten Alive?
You’re not alone. Viewers took to Twitter last night to express their outrage that conservationist and author Paul Rosolie was only briefly munched by a 20-foot anaconda in his crush-proof suit before being rescued by his team instead of becoming a human-sized lump in a giant snake’s belly.
Now Discovery is defending the special. In a statement exclusively obtained by EW, the network said: “Paul created this challenge to get maximum attention for one of the most beautiful and threatened parts of the world, the Amazon Rainforest and its wildlife. He went to great lengths to send this message and it was his absolute intention to be eaten alive. Ultimately, after the snake constricted Paul for over an hour and went for his head, the experiment had to be called when it became clear that Paul would be very seriously injured if he continued on. The safety of Paul, as well as the anaconda, was always our number-one priority.”
While the special provoked outrage leading up to its telecast because animal activists were concerned about the snake’s safety (the anaconda was released unharmed), now there’s seemingly even more outrage because Rosolie didn’t go far enough.
This morning, PETA also issued a new statement, slamming the show regardless of its anti-climactic ending: “The animals were removed from their water habitat and transported to a filming location, and the chosen snake was deceived into using her precious energy reserves to constrict a human being pretending to be a pig, all for a publicity stunt … Paul Rosolie and his crew put this snake through undeniable stress and robbed her of essential bodily resources. She was forced to constrict and then not allowed to eat. Study after study has shown that entertainment features such as this one that show humans interfering with and handling wild animals are detrimental to species conservation. Rosolie knows this. Discovery knows this. Yet they chose to contrive and air this shameful stunt for ratings anyway.”
For casual observers, Discovery seemed to have pledged that Paul Rosolie would be consumed by an anaconda. After all, the show was titled Eaten Alive and its official programming guide description on some services told viewers that a man “enters the belly of an anaconda” — a phrase that was also used in Discovery’s first teaser trailer for the show.
In other messaging, Discovery was far more guarded, calling the stunt an “attempt” in its official press release. And as EW pointed out in our in-depth Q&A, Discovery refused to reveal the amount of consumption. When we asked Rosolie how much he was “eaten,” he told us, “the story of this is an attempt. When you say Nik Wallenda is going to cross the Chicago skyline, they didn’t promise he was going to make it; they promised he would attempt it. So the show is called Eaten Alive and that’s what we worked as hard as we could to do. As for what happens, you’ll have to watch.” Rosolie also said he spent months physically recovering from the encounter.
What viewers eventually saw during the two-hour special was a 25-foot anaconda attack Rosolie, coil around him, then start to eat his helmet (video below). That’s when Rosolie had to call in his team to rescue him, saying his arm was being crushed. “I started to feel the blood drain out of my hand and I felt the bone flex, and when I got to the point where I felt like it was going to snap I had to tap out,” he said.
Perhaps Discovery could have avoided a headache by simply calling the show Nibbled Alive?
Here’s a video of the climactic movement: