I still have my first grade report card. At the bottom it reads, "Neal is a great student except for an occasional snake." Yes, it took me a while to realize my teachers and mom didn't share my love of Eve's nemesis.
The Discovery Channel special, Eaten Alive, was hyped up quite a bit leading up to Sunday night's airing. It is not a show a snake lover would watch, but I felt very compelled to. It's kind of like how you can't turn away from a fatal auto accident on the freeway. You don't want to see it -- you have to.
It had the makings of a success: two canoes filled with young rugged males and two sexy ladies paddling the forbidden waters of the Amazon searching for what they referred to as a "mega-anaconda." Cool, right? It's almost as if you could make a cheesy movie about that.
The show, however, was a huge letdown. I didn't learn as much about the Amazon and anacondas as I did about the host, and would be snake-snack, Paul Rosolie, and his crew. It began to seem more and more like an ego trip.
First they spotted an anaconda in the water and all the guys leaped off the boat to capture it while the ladies wisely remained where they were. After a very long life-and-death struggle to bring the huge beast onboard, they informed the viewing audience that it was much too small for the purposes needed. Okay, then why wasn't that part edited out? Why did they go after it at all?
When they found a larger snake the show got down to business. Of course they threw in a bit of a spoiler alert here by saying this really wasn't the big one they were after either. But they went with the "if you can't get eaten by the snake you love, get eaten by the snake you're with" mentality and moved forward.
The host got into his custom-crafted anti-eaten-alive suit, which resembled a deep-sea diving outfit complete with air hoses. If you thought a snake swallowing a full-grown man seemed unlikely, swallowing one in this suit seemed downright impossible. He proceeded to bug the heck out of the anaconda who just wanted to cool off in its mud bath. Needless to say the snake did get somewhat annoyed and, according to the narrative of the show, attacked.
As a kid in Alabama, I once saw a huge corn snake grab a full grown rabbit and go into the death roll. It was scary and awesome. I have also seen many documentaries where constrictors have done the same. I know a death coil when I see one. This wasn't it. This was a fat lazy snake lying on top of a man in a deep-sea diving suit. They used close-ups and special angles to try to make it appear as such, but it was all crap.
Okay, yes, I did fall for it when Mutual of Omaha's Marlin Perkins, from a safe distance, had Jim dive into the water and wrestle the giant snake. Jim hoisted the body over his shoulder and pretended the snake did it itself as he submerged several times in the death-grasp only to finally come out victorious. Yes, I bought it hook, line, and sinker. But I was twelve years old.
I can't believe this show had a warning for young viewers. It should have had a warning for mature viewers. Kids should have been the only ones allowed to watch this fictional cartoon.
In the end, Paul Rosolie "tapped out" from fears his arm would be broken and the male members of his crew separated him from the confused serpent. He pointed out small scratches on his arm as a testament to his brutal survival. They ended the fiasco by pointing out again this wasn't the monster they were looking for, but it was a good test of the suit.
It was either a setup for a potential sequel, or an excuse for the monumental failure of this attempt. Let's hope it's the latter.