• Survival competitions are the most extreme reality TV shows, like History Channel's "Alone" which challenges contestants to survive in the most remote places for the longest time to win $500,000.
• The show is real and contestants are monitored and checked every week.
• It is praised for its psychological aspects and inspiring the audience to deal with their own solitude.
• To get cast in the show, contestants must possess enough skills to live outdoors and demonstrate a stable emotional well-being.
• Past season winners are now successful YouTube content creators, public speakers, and some have even started their own businesses.
Out of all the reality TV shows you might find, survival competitions are truly the most extreme ones you would find in this genre. While it’s undeniable that the thrilling aspects of those shows is how competitive they can be, what really keeps people watching week after week is their fondness for the contestants and their expectation of achieving their goals.
In the case of History Channel’s “Alone” show, it’s not hard to see where its appeal lies. For eight seasons, the network has been challenging contestants to survive by themselves in the most remote places around the world for the longest time, to win $500,000 and completely change their lives.
How legitimate is the show though? Are they really left alone, or is it staged? Keep with us to find out!
Is It Real or Staged?
There are many questions that come to our minds when we watch “Alone”.
First of course is how could people be able to survive in an isolated place away from any civilization? What would happen if they fell sick and there’s no one close to help? What if they’re attacked by a wildlife, a wild animal, or can’t endure the harsh weather conditions?
Although all of these are things everyone has wondered about at least once, the most common doubt when it comes to the show is whether or not it showcases people legitimately going through those situations. Nonetheless, we can assure you that “Alone” is as real as it looks.
As affirmed by the show’s former contestants, every one of them had to film everything by themselves. As well, the production staff usually camps a prudent distance from the participants’ bases, but never provide them with food supplies or appliances, except for camera batteries and media outlet summaries.
While the show’s staff manages editing and post-production of the provided footage, the real job is solely done by every contestant, and how much effort they actually put into surviving, achieving the goal.
Are Contestants Checked-Out?
Although “Alone”’s main goal is to let contestants deal with their survival journey by themselves, there are still certain cautions the production staff takes to not leave them helpless in case of emergencies.
Each week, the show’s crew visits every participant to do a medical check on them, to determine if they’re healthy enough to continue. As well, a tracker is provided for nightly checks-in which could only be answered with a short ‘ok’.
These interactions between participants and production staff are always allegedly brief.
However, in the rare cases in which the contestants’ loved ones’ well-being is compromised, they’re informed of it and are given the choice to leave the show or stay in it. One of the most notable of these cases happened to Clay Hayes, whose mother died while the show was filming. Though regardless of his pain, he stayed in it to honor her memory.
All in all, despite the fact “Alone” contestants are in constant contact with the show’s staff, these interactions are supposedly not detrimental in their efforts to win the show.
Commonly, “Alone” raises a lot of scepticism in people. Though pointing out how dangerous it is to challenge someone to commit to the risky journey the show promotes isn’t a novelty, it’s an understandable concern.
However, there are many aspects of “Alone” which are certainly praised by critics.
Starting with Paste Magazine’s Shane Ryan generously describing it as a ‘masterpiece of human psychology’, it’s obvious that “Alone”s success with the general audience goes far beyond just the simple curiosity it causes. As described, the show almost encourages the audience to feel sympathetic towards the participants, due to their unrelenting positive attitude and ingenuity.
Saying that “Alone” encompasses many human aspects which are not usual in normal everyday situations, is a feat in itself. Nonetheless, the show has been slowly taking a more important place in its viewers’ hearts, than just being a source of analysis. As described by Isaac Fitzgerald from the New York Times, the resilience shown by “Alone”s participants has inspired people all around the world to deal with their own solitude, especially during times of uncertainty such as the quarantine related to the COVID-19 contingency.
While these debatable arguments are subject to every person’s perspective and views, it’s undeniable that “Alone” has a positive effect on its audience, certainly changing more lives along the way than expected.
How To Get Cast In It
As with most other similar shows, landing a spot to participate in “Alone” is a matter of luck, being qualified and doing things right.
According to the show’s producer Lynn Leahey, they receive at least 5,000 videos of hopeful participants to join the show. These videos are usually carefully chosen taking into account specific aspects the staff might or might not be looking for.
Though it’s not certain if there’s a safe method to be successfully cast in it, the most important things to consider ar possessing enough skills to live outdoors for long periods of time, in addition to demonstrating a stable emotional well-being and a healthy body.
— HISTORY (@HISTORY) November 17, 2019
Leahey also revealed that specific factors such as not having enough experience at managing firearms or useful tools like hatchets, is detrimental during the selection process.
Other things like boiling water in plastic bottles, instantly disqualify the hopeful participants, in spite of how such a seemingly unimportant detail might appear.
After watching and disqualifying thousands of people, “Alone” production chooses 20 potentially fitting individuals, and invites them to be evaluated during a camp in New York. From then on, the final step is to choose the 10 fortunate final contestants.
How Locations Are Chosen
Though during the filming process contestants are in charge of shooting everything they do, and providing for themselves, there’s still a lot of work the production staff is meant to do.
Besides having to deal with an extensive and probably tiring selection process, the crew also have to deal with the necessary logistics related to the show. In this regard, they have to plan their own housing, permits and transportation required to ensure everything goes smoothly.
Knowing that “Alone” is normally set in natural environments which might not be ideal for humans to live in, their work proves to be challenging for the crew. However, in order to successfully choose the best locations for “Alone”, the staff consider factors such as space, which should be big enough to host 10 people without them finding each other. Then they consider the fauna, flora and any other natural resources available. Just as important, fires in said place should be allowed at any time of the day, to ensure that participants could use it to survive against harsh cold weather, or just to prepare food.
As important as having proficient hunting and fishing skills, it’s necessary that contestants have enough knowledge about potentially venomous plants or dangerous animals.
What Are The Past Seasons’ Winners Doing Now?
He’s well remembered for being the first “Alone” winner in the show’s history, for spending 56 days in the wilderness of Port Hardy, in British Columbia. Though his feat was impressive, the experience completely changed his life and not necessarily because of the money. Throughout the course of the show, he lost over 60 pounds, more than 25kgs, due to his very limited means of obtaining food in the wild, in addition to having many difficulties adapting to a normal life after said period.
Several years have passed since he won the $500,000 prize, but now he’s the owner of Alan Kay Survival, an academy dedicated to teaching self defense and outdoors survival skills.
Although his social media hasn’t been active for years, his business appears to be doing well.
Don’t be mistaken by the fact he’s a fiction writer. Actually, David McIntyre’s skills to survive in the wildest natural conditions were proven more than true, when he won “Alone”s prize back in its second season, aired in 2016.
Set on Vancouver Island, David won the competition by staying in the wilderness for 66 days. As well as his predecessor from the first season, David lost a lot of weight because of the many difficulties he faced obtaining food.
Although there’s not a lot of information about what he’s doing now, on his website he offers courses in bushcraft, and sells his published books.
Native of Appleton in Maine, Zachary Fowler was the third winner in the show’s history by spending 87 days in Argentinia’s Patagonia.
Zack’s victory didn’t come as easy though. Due to the limited food and lack of suitable animals for hunting, he lost a third of the weight he started the show with, amounting to over 70lbs, more than 30kgs.
Nowadays, Zack’s business is definitely thriving. He has recently become a YouTube content creator, by sharing survival-related videos and vlogs, something which he’s become very successful at by amassing over one million subscribers on the platform. As well, his website Fowler’s Makery and Mischief is currently active, and offers several products for sale, including fishing and adventure gear, knives and even slingshots.
Jim & Ted Baird
Fourth season of “Alone” was undoubtedly very different from the previous. In this one, the show was based again on Vancouver Island located in British Columbia, but the real shocking novelty about this season was the fact contestants joined the show in pairs.
Although finding yourself with a known face in such an unusual situation sounds like a relief at the start, the complexity of it was increased when every person was dropped miles away from each other, resulting in the disqualification of three pairs in the first week, due to their inability to find each other.
In the case of the brothers Jim & Ted Baird, their stay in the wilderness was prolonged to 75 days before winning. Nowadays, both of them are YouTube content creators. While Ted is also a bush craftsman, Jim sells personalized adventurer merchandise on his website.
A native of Nebraska, Sam Larson became a legend by becoming the youngest contestant to win “Alone”, at only 24 years. Sam was able to survive alone in Mongolia’s Selenge Province in a so-called non-winners competition, as it included contestants from the previous seasons.
Since his victory, Sam has become a public speaker, online content creator, blogger, podcaster and knivecrafter. Many of his products can be found on his website Samexplorers, and you could contract his services as a survival trainer and speaker through it as well.
Sam is active on social media and especially on Facebook, on which he often streams videos covering a variety of topics.
By spending 77 days surviving in Canada’s Great Slave Lake area, Jordan Jonas became “Alone”’s sixth season winner. While his victory is an impressive feat, Jordan actually had a lot of experience as a survivalist prior to it, having lived extended periods of time in Siberia and other hard-to-endure places.
Nowadays, Jordan is actively working as a survivalist, offering courses on this on his website, and in the academy Storm Creek Outfitters.
As well, he’s a public speaker, designer and a pretty much active Instagram user, a platform he uses mostly to share tit-bits about his family and travels around the world.
At 47 years old, Roland Welker became the first “Alone” contestant to win the highly desired $1 million prize. This show’s season was promoted as the “Million Dollar Challenge”, for being the first time in which the goal wasn’t to surpass fellow competitors for their stay time, but to last 100 days surviving in the Great Slave Lake area.
Although this new format opened the possibility of several people winning, it was Roland who was the only one who actually survived that long. The next closest competitor to achieving said goal was Callie Russel, but who left the show after 89 days due to ill-health.
Nowadays, you could book Roland for public events, to teach you his survival ways, or to simply go hunting with him. On his website, official merchandise such as clothes, mugs and his books are available for sale.
His presence in the show was widely commented on, due to the many impressive feats he achieved. As the winner of the show’s eight season, Clay Hayes spent 74 days in British Columbia’s Chilko Lake region. By showcasing his top-level hunting and tracking skills, Clay clearly left an impression on everyone by managing to successfully scare off the wildlife around him and becoming the first contestant in the show’s history to kill a deer.
After processing his victory, Clay affirmed he didn’t know what to do with the money, except for putting part of it to his children’s college funds. Only time will tell what he’s going to do with his prize, but it wouldn’t be surprising if he follows his predecessors’ steps, and funds a business with it.
Either way, we couldn’t be prouder and more impressed by his and the other contestant’s journeys and achievements, aside from the entertainment value that they all provide.