Bestselling author (and Miami Herald columnist) Carl Hiaasen made his mark writing thrillers, but in the past decade he’s written a number of beloved children’s books, including the Newberry award-winning Hoot in 2006. Out this month is his newest novel, Bad Monkey, but his recent book Chomp, is a coming of age story that doubles as a send-up of reality TV… so we had him bring us a list of his favorite somewhat ridiculous reality shows.
My name is Carl Hiaasen and I’m a columnist for the Miami Herald and I’ve written a number of novels. The latest one for young readers is called Chomp. It’s about the star of a TV survivalist show who gets airdropped into the Everglades and gets cut off from his crew. He’s not really a survivalist at all but he looked good on television. A couple of kids have to help him out.
Here’s my list of the three top, if that’s the right word, reality shows that are highly addictive and highly entertaining, not necessarily for the reasons they think they’re entertaining.
1. Man vs. Wild
The first one of course is Man vs. Wild with Bear Grylles. I don’t even know if this is still on the air because I read something where he might have been dismissed recently or is no longer with the show. Anyway, it’s a great premise; he gets airdropped into all these wild places.
It’s absolutely required that he eat something gross two or three times like a centipede, or he’ll grab a snake and bite its head off. You’re supposed to imagine that he’s alone even though there’s a whole crew of people and a camera crew.
Man vs. Wild was the ground-breaker for this survivalist TV shows, where “I’m going into the wilderness, it’s just me and my Swiss Army knife and an extra pair of socks.” Now there’s probably a half dozen of these things.
There’s a married couple that do a survivalist show. I don’t know the name of it, but just think of the idea of being alone with your spouse under these circumstances. That would be survivalist if you were at Bergdorf’s.
Number two, I’d have to vote for Infested. It’s a phenomenal show. It reconstructs the sad lives of people who wake up one day and their homes are infested. The one I saw was bed bugs.
The bugs tripled and quadrupled, then the bugs were everywhere. This is all reconstructed dramatically with actors of course, but every week it’s something new. Bed bugs, roaches, once there were spiders. Scorpions was a good one. Every week you tune in to see how much worse it can get.
For me, having grown up when Florida was truly a wild and undeveloped place. Of course, all of us from that generation always root for whatever’s infesting. Maybe excluding shark attacks but otherwise you’re always rooting for nature, you’re always rooting for the wild critters.
I’m not sure you could generate that kind of sympathy for bed bugs necessarily, but growing up I was always in favor of the wild things.
3. Sons of Guns
For number three I don’t know if I can top Infested but there’s a great show that my kids have gotten addicted to called Sons of Guns, and it’s about this company — I think it’s in Louisiana or Alabama — and they just make guns. It’s all they do.
Somebody comes in and says, “I want a gun that’ll knock over a garbage truck.” And they’ll all sit around a table and come up with this canon. This is their job.
This service is available and I don’t think most of America realizes they can upgrade to the kind of weaponry that really will take out a whole battalion when we get invaded, when the black helicopters land.
I have to say it’s a very cool deal when they do blow up the garbage truck. Everybody’s cheering. Liberals, conservatives, Democrats, Republicans have to say, “that’s really cool. Look at that thing. It’s just splintered.”
These are guilt programs. Obviously, the subtext is always “this is ridiculous.” Then we’ll watch Planet Earth where you’ll have a thousand penguins mating. We’ll do the healthy things. We’ll balance the ridiculous with the sublime.