A petition demanding Discovery Channel cancel its dining-on-a-naturalist anaconda special, Eaten Alive blew past its goal of 25,000 signatures at 5:49 ET this morning, and is well on its way to its new goal of 35,000 — just six days after its launch on Change.org. Discovery is not commenting on the petition, and has yet to issue information about the program it sneak-peeked during Nik Wallenda’s Chicago high-wire walk.
Last week, a national undie bunching broke out when Discovery revealed in the teaser clip that it intended to treat viewers to Eaten Alive on Sunday, December 7, in which amateur snake whisperer/Amazon tourist-trek leader Paul Rosolie would “enter the belly of an anaconda” – and then be fished out. The petition blasts the ratings stunt as “animal abuse to the highest degree and absolutely disgusting.”
“We’re gonna get me inside the snake,” Rosolie said in the clip, with the breezy candor of a TV-personality-cum-deeply-concerned naturalist.
“We’re gonna make me as appealing as possible so the snake just says, ‘Well, I got this big thing here, I might as well get a free meal’,” Rosolie continued proudly, after being seen hacking at foliage and no doubt planning future made-for-TV stunts that will do the local fauna no good.
“You have to go head first,” he added. TV’s latest blot on the animal protection landscape earned a bachelor’s degree in environmental studies from Ramapo College of New Jersey, runs the “conservation tourism” company Tamandua Expeditions, and wrote a book about his adventures, Mother Of God: An Extraordinary Journey Into The Uncharted Tributaries Of The Western Amazon.
In a real disservice to viewers, Rosolie planned to enter the belly of an anaconda “in a custom-built snake-proof suit” guaranteed to guard against gastric juices. That said, it was not made clear exactly how Rosolie’s Lumpy Ninja costume would ensure he survived the preprandial food crushing that is the preferred mastication method of the anaconda when dining on something large-ish, like Rosolie. Snake experts who’ve weighed in on Discovery’s gag agree human shoulders are too broad for even your plus-sized anaconda to consume without pre-crushing. And then, there’s that swollen head.
The snake must take its comfort in the knowledge it contributes to Discovery’s campaign to goose its fourth quarter ratings, joining Nik Wallenda. The high-wire walker’s successful summer franchise, traversing well-known landmarks such as Niagara Falls and the Grand Canyon but his latest death-defying stunt got moved to fall, to boost quarterly ratings results. While he easily survived two shorter walks between Chicago skyscrapers — one walk while blindfolded — he nearly got done in by NFL football and The Walking Dead. During the actual period during which he performed the walks that night, Wallenda clocked an average of 5.8 million viewers — a good number for Discovery on a fourth-quarter Sunday, but a nose-bleed-inducing drop compared to the 13 million who’d watched him cross the Colorado River Gorge adjacent the Grand Canyon in June of ’13.
At any rate, Rosolie promised the anaconda would enjoy thoroughly their time together. That’s because he’d doused himself in pig blood before snuggling up to the anaconda, who we imagine directed her eye in mild astonishment at the oddly attired Rosolie, realized yet another Discovery Channel TV crew must be in town, and squared whatever is the anaconda equivalent of her own shoulders, to face the inevitable, like some aristocrat of the French Revolution stepping into the Reality-TV tumbril. Unfortunately, Discovery cut away from that money shot in the clip, in hopes we will tune in on December 7 to confirm.
Last week, when the drumbeat against the ratings stunt grew loud, Rosolie insisted the ordeal already had been filmed and the snake had survived just fine — though not making it clear for how long after the meal the two had stayed in touch — tweeting:
— Paul Rosolie (@PaulRosolie) November 5, 2014
Pretty rich, coming from a guy who’d just boasted about basting himself in the blood of pigs. Anyway, the public wasn’t buying it and, as as tempers flared, Rosolie made a bold play to own the outrage, tweeting:
— Paul Rosolie (@PaulRosolie) November 7, 2014
PETA did its best to spread word of Discovery’s latest ratings bid, stating that while the network’s “blatant publicity stunt sounds far-fetched,” if the information suggested in the teaser “is accurate, the snake was tormented and suffered for the sake of ratings—as animals usually do when they’re used for entertainment.” Anacondas, PETA and snake experts agree, go days without eating and expend the energy needed to do so selectively. “Making this snake use up energy by swallowing this fool and then possibly regurgitating him would have left the poor animal exhausted and deprived of the energy that he or she needs. Shame on this pseudo ‘wildlife expert’ for tormenting this animal, and shame on the Discovery Channel for giving him the incentive to do so.”
It is yet to be seen what, if anything, the 25,000 signatures protesting Discovery’s new fourth-quarter ratings bid will accomplish.
Last month, Breaking Bad star Bryan Cranston discovered the downside of the media’s deep and abiding love of all things Breaking Bad, when a flood of late-night gags and morning-infotainment-show hand wringing turned a puny 8,000-signature Change.org petition protesting the show’s meth-dealing action figures into a major national story, causing Toys R Us to take his show’s action figure off its shelves.
And, back in January, Oxygen Media pulled the plug on controversial reality special All My Babies’ Mamas as pressure mounted from Change.org, and various groups outraged over the show’s premise about rapper Shawty Lo, his 11 children and their 10 mothers. That petition clocked 37,000 signatures of viewers demanding Oxygen to pull support for the show shortly after it was announced in December. “We will not support any network and advertiser which exploits the plight of children and targets young women with stereotypical, dangerous, unsafe messages,” the petition said. To which Oxygen responded, “As part of our development process, we have reviewed casting and decided not to move forward with the special.”