Television

'Survivor Africa' set to complete incident-free run in India

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The third edition of the Survivor series, Survivor Africa on AXN, draws to a close next Friday. 

And in what is becoming familiar terrain for the series, there have been some criticisms it has had to face. Not from India though but from the United States. 

Survivor Africa will wind up on 18 January here with a two-hour special episode at 10 pm. A one hour show Survivor: Africa-Reunion will immediately follow the last episode. Survivor - Back to Africa - a round up episode - will be aired on 25 January between 10-11 pm, an official release says.

The current series started on 19 October last year, with 16 Americans descending on Kenya's Shaba National Reserve. The Survivors strategised, back stabbed and connived against one another in a bid to make it to the final four who would vie for the grand prize of $1 million. The final episode will feature Lex, a marketing manager, Kim, a retired teacher, Tom, a goat farmer and Ethan, a professional soccer player, pitting their survival skills against one another.

One thing that has worked for Survivor Africa is the decision by AXN to air the third season of the reality show's episodes a week after its telecast in the US to scan potentially objectionable content. After having burnt its fingers with the second season of the show, AXN did not want to take chances with its third season. To recap: After just four episodes of the season which was set in Australia, the channel was compelled to yank the show off the air in India as viewers - especially PETA (People for Ethical Treatment of Animals) - were uncomfortable with scenes depicting cruelty towards animals. 

While it was smooth-sailing in India, Survivor Africa has however not passed muster in the US. The Ark Trust, which claims to be the only animal protection organization that monitors animal messages in the news and entertainment industry, has placed Survivor Africa in its annual top ten list of media shows with anti-animal messages. 

The Ark Trust's Foe-Paw Report has lambasted the shows that show contestants brutally knifing animals and eating raw animal parts as part of their coverage.

The report has the following unflattering comments to make about it. "America was shocked to see game show contestants brutally knife a young pig to death, with one of the killers triumphantly smearing the pig's blood on his face. 

Says former Broadway star, and founder and President of The Ark Trust Gretchen Wyler: "As the media 'watchdog' for animals, we must draw attention to negative messages that desensitize the public toward animal suffering. We are especially concerned by the growing trend among "reality" game shows to use animals in irresponsible scenarios for shock value."

The Trust's view of the remaining 'top' ten anti-animal shows are: 

1. 48 Hours (CBS): Dan Rather sympathetically profiles the "heroes of the rodeo" for a full hour while somehow managing not to find a single spokesperson for the animal-protection point of view. Subjects are shown treating animals harshly and violently while Dan describes them as "tough," with "old fashioned values." Rather falls into the old trap of finding "heroism" in the forceful subjugation of animals.

2. If Moulin Rouge was a high point for 20th Century Fox then the gross film Freddy Got Fingered was surely a low point: Tom Green shows last year's Foe-Paw for Road Trip was no fluke. He's back, taking the objectification of animals to new lows with three revolting scenes (plus a "bonus" on DVD) showing he considers animals nothing but mechanical props for juvenile sight gags. For example, while driving, Green encounters a dead deer by the road. He slices the animal open, pulls out the guts, and dances around with the lifeless body on his head. 

3. My Wife and Kids (ABC): The accidental death of a child's hamster is played for laughs, followed by the dad lying to the child about the death, then proposing a surreptitious "replacement" of the animal. A primer on how not to address pet-death issues with children.

4. The View (ABC): For frequent features promoting fur, usually led by Star Jones. Their "fashion" segments have included sable and squirrel fur, as well as an alligator skin skirt. 

5. Nissan Bullfight commercial: After Nissan's ad glorifying bullfighting ignited worldwide protests, Nissan responded by placing an equally disturbing print version in the New York Times. 

6. WXTB Radio : Shock Jock Bubba the Love Sponge: Just what was this radio station thinking when it allowed this DJ to brutally slaughter a boar in the station's parking lot, and then to broadcast the sounds of the carnage on air? 

7. Insomniac With Dave Attell (Comedy Central): This "comedy" television show consistently plays animal suffering and death for laughs, including a hunting trip to New Orleans (the killing is shown) and, in another episode, the audience gets to join Dave on a "fun" trip to a cockfight. 

8. Iditarod (USA Network): With all the information available about the suffering of dogs forced to run this 1,150 mile marathon, including at least 117 dead dogs in the race's 29-year history, the USA Network's romantic glamorisation of the Iditarod and its mushers was painful to view.

9. Fear Factor (NBC): The reality game show entices six contestants to eat sheep eyes, which they jokingly munch as several live sheep mingle behind them. In another episode, contestants were required to lie down among rats, with rats apparently stressed and crushed in the process (AXN is scheduled to start showing the show a little later in the year).

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