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When Reality TV Gets A Little Too Real: Edgy Fare Can Be Deadly For The Crew

An Amazon tree boa (Photo by Pedro Bernarndo via Shutterstock)
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Reality TV can be deadly—and not just for some of the adventurous souls in shows like "Deadliest Catch" or "Outback Hunters." Working on these shows can be perilous for the crew members, too.

Danger garners ratings—the peril of a show's premise is often used in advertisements. But producers, safety experts and labor advocates say that many of these shows cut corners in protecting their cast and crew, according to the Los Angeles Times. The Times spoke with crew members—or their survivors—who were injured or killed while working in the line of duty for reality TV. Here are some of the horror stories:

  • There is a man (not named) who was died of a snake bite while shooting in Venezuelan jungle in 2010. Although there was a paramedic and antidote venom on the set, the man couldn't be transported to get medical help because it was too late in the day to fly a helicopter. A friend wonders if shooting footage of a deadly snake so late was a smart decision.
  • Terry Flanell was killed while shooting a pilot proposed for the Discovery Channel called "Brothers in Arms" at a Colorado shooting range. At one point, two smoke bombs detonated, sending a metal pipe right toward Flanell. Flanell's husband Melvin Bernstein had complained there wasn't a pyrotechnics expert on set—just the day before his brother and his girlfriend had been injured in an explosion.
  • Monica Martino was badly injured while shooting a History channel series "Bamazon" about Alabama construction workers mining for gold in Guyana. She was riding in a boat piloted by a captain blind in one eye. He lost control of the boat, causing the crew to fall into the river and Martino was knocked out. She regained consciousness when she was brought aboard, but that wasn't the end of her ordeal. The boat struck a tree on its way back to base camp and she sustained a concussion, broken ribs and a torn shoulder. She had to wait 19 hours to get medical care, because there was a medical evacuation plan for the crew.
  • Some of the premises being batted around are apparently so dangerous that insurers won't even consider them. The Fireman's Fund passed on 50 reality TV shows this year because they were too risky. One show wanted to blow up a mine. Another wanted to go to Mexico to follow drug cartels around.Some labor advocates argue that the shows should be unionized to push back against manic production schedules and increase safety protections. However, Thom Beers, who produced hit shows "Deadliest Catch," "Ice Road Truckers" and "Monster Garage," argues that crew members that take on dangerous jobs are compensated: "We realize the fact that they are putting their lives in danger, which is why we take care of them. We pay them very, very well, way beyond scale, for what they do."

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