Can you learn survival skills from a reality TV show?

What are your thoughts on reality survival shows? Can one learn any skills of value or are these largely staged? Tammy San Diego, California

Tony Nester

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Having served as a consultant on numerous TV shows I can tell you that, due to the liability issues involved, networks require individuals to be close to a backup crew and while it may seem like the host is deep in the wilds, there is actually a support group of 8-10 personnel nearby. Most of the “reality” shows out today are largely about theatrics under tightly controlled and heavily scripted conditions and are no substitute for hands-on training at a reputable survival school.

Don’t forget that the bottom line for these shows is to provide a soap-opera via wilderness stuntwork. I have seen many staged events take place for the sake of providing entertainment value to viewers. I recall a show I worked on that made it look like myself and the host were miles from civilization living off the land when, in reality, we were a hundred yards from the vehicles and had two cameramen, two sound techs, a makeup assistant, and two gophers whose sole responsibility was lugging coolers jammed with chilled espressos!

Reality in the wilds is happening out your back door right now. Go for a walk in the outdoors and learn from the natural world. It’s a classroom which is unparalleled with real lessons waiting to be learned.