Members of Expedition Africa. (Not pictured: All the locals who lug their gear and the camera crew who captures their glory)
Few knows this, but a while back someone asked me to audition for a position as the host of a television series that focused on Tattoo cultures around the world.
I was fresh off my trip to Asia tracking down my clothes – pre-book deal. I set a camera in a field of corn and talked about where I came from and why I would be a great host for their show on tattoos, even though I knew I would be a horrible host for a show on tattoos.
I don’t have any tattoos, nor plan on getting any ever. The only tattoo I would consider getting is one from a man I heard about from some around-the-world sailors. He asks you some questions about yourself, you pay him, and then he gives you the tattoo he wants to give you. If you ask for a certain tattoo, “I want a pony,” the deal is off. “No Tattoo for you!” This option would work for me because if the tattoo looked stupid, I could just blame it on the guy who gave it to me, absolving myself from the decision making process. “Who would have thought that Care Bears were big on that remote island?” I could offer as my excuse.
Anyhow, I digress…
I would have been a crappy host for a number of reasons. First, I don’t have any tattoos. Second, I have a major problem with many of these “go places, do stuff, travel/adventure” shows: the camera crew is completely forgotten.
Bear Gryll…GRRRRR….gets me fired up. Death waits around every ravine, under every rock, and from every angle. At least that’s what he says. As he climbs up the mossy rocks of a waterfall he looks at the camera and says something like, “One wrong step and I fall to my death.” As he wades his way through snake and alligator infested waters he warns, “At any moment I could be attacked and fighting for my life.” Bear Gryll is nuts, sure, but what about the poor cameraman? He’s climbing a mossy waterfall while holding a camera. He’s trudging through death-infested waters while holding a camera.
I’ve been watching Expedition Africa on the History Channel. Four “explorers” are following in the steps of Stanley’s expedition to find Livingstone. The four fight over who’s leading the group where while local porters and even two bushmen look on. One explorer is even carrying around a pith helmet! It’s embarrassing. It’s just a reminder of the ugliness of colonialism. “We’re white, educated, explorers, the locals are cute and all with their bare feet, but we know better than they do.” The group comes across some tough conditions – climbing muddy mountains in the rain, crossing deserts in excruciating heat. But…what about the camera crew who are climbing a muddy mountain in the rain while holding a camera, and crossing the desert in excruciating heat while holding a camera?
I’m not a big fan of half stories and half-truths and that’s what these shows give us.
I would like to see a show about the camera crews who are tossed on ships while holding a camera filming the The Deadliest Catch, the camera woman sitting in the out of control rig barreling down the Ice Road, the dude climbing next to Bear Gryll.
Now that’s a show I could host. Although I suppose then there would need to be another show about the people filming the camera crew who are filming the camera crew.
Not only are the camera crews left out of the story although they are sweating, trekking, risking their lives just like the stars of the show, but the affects the cameras have on the results of the show aren’t acknowledged. Go to your nearest airport and start begging for 100-bucks. Not going to happen. But go to your nearest airport with a camera crew from the Amazing Race filming you, and your chances are good.
I’ve said it before, reality brings death to romance and I would like to make one addendum.
Reality (TV) brings death to romance and cameramen.
(Below the cut is an old column about my Travel Channel Hero Alby Mangels and the time I spent with his nephew in Australia)