As palate cleansers go, this may be the closest to literal that we’ll get. The Discovery Channel promoted its prime-time “Eaten Alive” special for weeks, with naturalist Paul Rosalie making appearance after appearance to explain exactly how he made himself into an anaconda antipasti. Instead of getting eaten, though, Rosalie ended up just getting tasted and squeezed a bit before he asked for a rescue.
If Rosalie didn’t get eaten on the show, he and Discovery got eaten alive by the Internet after the letdown:
It seemed like dinner was served as the snake began to wrap him up, and at one point Rosalie thought his arm was going to break. But in the end there was no meal to be had as his team rushed in to free him before he was eaten.
“I had very labored breathing which was spiking my heart rate even more because that was stressful,” he explained to Discovery.
But viewers on social media exploded, some upset no one was really eaten alive.
“2 hours of my life I can’t get back and Paul didn’t even get eaten alive,” one Twitter user wrote.
“This dude’s a quitter,” another said.
Others compared it to the letdown of Geraldo Rivera’s 1986 special where he opened Al Capone’s secret vault, only to find empty bottles and dirt.
PETA also called the “Eaten Alive” show a shameful stunt for ratings.
The Today show crew wasn’t terribly impressed, either. “Was he actually eaten alive,” host Matt Lauer asks, “or just cuddled really tightly?” Rosalie had made a promotional appearance on the show last week, but the Today cast heaped a little scorn on the ridiculous build-up and the inevitable letdown:
Maybe the show should have been called “Rolling Around in the Mud Alive,” “Constricted Alive” or “Made to Feel Really Uncomfortable … Alive!”
By the end of the two-hour event, one thing was clear: Rosolie, outfitted in a compression suit covered in a generous coating of pig blood, did convince the anaconda to go after him — but he was by no means eaten, alive or otherwise.
Our colleagues at Twitchy are having a pretty good time with “Hugged Alive,” too. There are comparisons to Geraldo Rivera’s stunt with the Al Capone vault in 1986 too, but there is one key difference. Rivera did that broadcast live. He got embarrassed when it came up empty, but Rivera’s promotion of that event all preceded the flop of an ending. Rosalie and Discovery had already taped this stunt when it promoted the “Eaten Alive” stunt, with Rosalie making it sound as though the snake had at least started to swallow him. They didn’t quite lie, but they certainly didn’t tell the truth either, especially when titling the event Eaten Alive when that clearly didn’t happen.
This sets a new standard for stunt broadcasting. Discovery and Rosalie jumped the Geraldo here, and perhaps suggests a new phrase. If media outlets buy another dud like this, we can say that they “swallowed the anaconda.”
If you’re too young to know about Rivera’s special on Al Capone’s vault — aired only once, for obvious reasons — feel free to spend 93 minutes waiting for the worst payoff in television history. Until last night, that is.