Last night, Discovery premiered its special Eaten Alive, in which Paul Rosolie, easily the David Blaine of naturalism, offered himself up to be torn to shreds by PETA and pissed-off viewers alike. Indeed, the only one who didn’t seem interested in eating Rosolie was the giant anaconda hired for that express purpose—as well as for bringing attention to the deforestation in the Amazon that continues to threaten these beautiful, misunderstood creatures we can shove our reality series stars inside. Instead, the show found Rosolie abandoning his mission after a mere 15 minutes or so of being hugged and his helmet being nibbled, in a special that would have been more accurately titled Snuggled A Bit.
Despite the promise inherent in its use of the past participle, Rosolie actually telegraphed the disappointment of Eaten Alive days in advance, telling Entertainment Weekly that the anaconda didn’t want none unless he posed a legitimate threat, hon. “The snake did not want to eat me, at first,” Rosolie said. “She wasn’t interested. But once I showed myself as a predator and she got spooked, then she defended herself.”
He then described almost exactly what viewers ended up seeing: an attack on his helmet and some constriction on his armored suit, which ended when Rosolie complained that the anaconda, which breaks the bones of its prey before eating it, tried to break his bones before eating him. But “as far as actual consumption went, I’m not allowed to say,” Rosolie concluded, of a show whose title is literally a synonym for “actual consumption.”
Naturally, the fact that no one got eaten alive in Eaten Alive—arguably the worst “event television” payoff since Geraldo Rivera burst into Al Capone’s vault, where he similarly wasn’t devoured by a giant snake—has left many upset, on both sides of the snakes-eating-guys issue. On the one hand, PETA added to those preemptive protests with a new shaming press release blasting it as a publicity stunt, one that exploited the anaconda by removing it from its natural habitat and forcing it to expend its limited physical resources on constricting Rosolie, and then not even getting to eat him.
And had the snake a Twitter account, it could have joined the hundreds who felt similarly robbed of the two hours they could have spent watching other things not eat other things. For example, my cat didn’t eat any guys either last night. You don’t see me making it into a cable special.
— Dave Lozo (@DaveLozo) December 8, 2014
Responding to the outcry, Discovery has issued a statement in which it made clear that Rosolie absolutely intended to be constricted and eaten alive by a giant snake, only to stop when his assembled team of scientific and medical experts determined that it might hurt:
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.
For those concerned about the current safety of the snake, Rosolie reassures Discovery that it’s “alive and well and remains healthy,” having not eaten any toxic opportunists recently. Rosolie is already believed to be prepping his next special, in which he brings attention to the tragic endangerment of the blue whale by fisting its blowhole for 10 minutes.