Australia alone

Australia alone

“This program includes trained survival experts. Don’t try it alone,” warns the new SBS series Australia alone.

It would surely be a brave individual to attempt to replicate the circumstances of this survival series, based on the US original.

Why would you want to be marooned in the western Tasmanian wilderness, having to fend for yourself without the assistance of a camera crew and producers? It rains 250 days a year, it’s freezing cold, and there are all kinds of animals (snakes, Tasmanian devils, and more) lurking nearby.

Perhaps for the $250,000 that is awarded to the last man/woman standing, or maybe just for sheer bragging rights.

10 individuals, ages 22 to 52, come from serious backgrounds: hunters, adventurers, army vets, wildlife officers, bushcraft and farmers. This motley crew aren’t your typical reality contestants looking for a career on Instagram.

Yet the format is still a televised competition. The rules are simple. Survive alone longer than anyone else and win. The problem is that participants have no idea whether their competitors, who are isolated up to 10 km away, have “exploited” by calling manufacturers on a satellite phone.

Secondary teacher Beck describes her slice of Iutruwita/Tasmania as “frighteningly beautiful” among her many F-bombs as she comes to terms with the reality of her circumstance. She soon she will fear “eyeballs on me”…damn.

Rewilding Facilitator Gina is practically delusional running barefoot on wet moss. “The only way out is if they get me out,” she insists.

Planning and Environment Manager Rob, a Maori father of 2, begins by paying homage to the land and traditional owners.

Iraq War Army veteran Chris is determined to quickly patch up her tarp before she realizes he’s found himself under a huge wasp nest. Sin.

In addition to the dangers caused by animals, there are risks of “widows” (limbs falling in extreme wind conditions), water with bacteria, hypothermia, starvation, injuries of various kinds and perhaps the greatest threat of all: loneliness.

If reality TV is about conflict and manipulation, the conflict here is with mother nature or with oneself. To such Alone focus on 4 or 5 different participants per episode so the narratives aren’t too overwhelming for the viewer.

Participants were trained to self-tell about their actions: “I’m going to try this water. You should always boil your water, they say,” says Chris.

They also have to film their activities using a range of go-pro cameras both on tripods and handheld (the vertigo factor is high for onlookers here). But it all adds up to the purity of the format, with no camera crews or off-camera producers, like Survived has. This is much closer to Bear Grylls…

The series includes on-screen “factoid” titles about the environment, wildlife, history, dangers, and more. All of this adds up to the learnings you’d expect from a public broadcaster (although there’s a commercial TV premium on offer).

It has to be said that the footage and views from ITV Studios Australia are stunning. Dead trees pop out of the water like a wasteland from The Lion King, creating an eerie landscape, filmed next to locations used in The bridge. Frankly, you could come for the competition and stay for the scenery.

Alone has garnered a large fan base from moviegoers who are mesmerized by how loneliness transforms its participants, but I suspect there will be others who are frustrated by the lack of interaction with the cast. That could make it a polarizing series, but make up your own mind.

Best of all, there’s nothing like it on television and that alone is worth a look.

Preview double episode of Alone Australia Wednesday at 7.30pm, on SBS.