Published on May 29th, 2009 | by Erich Becker0
Expedition Africa (01×01)
There’s always something alluring about the fish-out-of-water turmoil that can result from plopping people into an alien land with different customs and a different culture. Such is the Mark Burnett-produced Expedition Africa on HISTORY, a Survivor-lite of sorts using the reality angle of the Emmy winning CBS show, but also throwing in a certain Man vs. Wild element to the whole thing with four adventurers attempting to recreate the journey of Dr. David Livingston and the journalist, Henry Morton Stanley, who sought him out.
War Journalist Kevin Sites, navigator Pasquale Scatturo, survivalist Benedict Allen, and wildlife expert Mireya Mayor are the brave ones to take on this reenactment of man vs. nature in the African bush. Well also throw in a film crew, dozens of native porters, and two Maasai warriors hired to protect the expedition as it traverses the planned 970 plus miles. While trying to recreate the journey taken by Stanley the show manages to represent this well, however facts like funding and compensation, and the existence of a film crew kind of mar the authenticity of the whole thing. Funds seem to be unlimited, and while the crew is never seen, are we to believe that if someone was seriously injured that the production crew wouldn’t have a satellite phone ready to go? It’s a fun trip, but the perceived threat of danger seems to be mainly manufactured by clever editing than anything really dangerous.
It would only be fair that the collection of characters would be ripped straight from every reality show known to man. There’s the crazy, all-knowing, old man who could go from sweet to cut-throat in a matter of seconds, the “true” leader of the group who uses public opinion to get what he wants, the collected handsome guy who’s going to last until the end, and the generic girl character, with tank tops and the ability to identify snakes and not run the other way.
Each act break presents another artificial cliffhanger for you to ponder for a few minutes. In the pilot Sites becomes separate from the rest of the group, however he has a trained warrior and a porter with him, as well as a loud whistle and is found within minutes of being lost. Akin to most reality shows, a confessional cam is used to get the four main adventurers reactions to events, such as the group leaving camp without water, deciding where to make camp, and a general disregard for basic logic.
Taking Expedition Africa at face value, its four trained explorers making a nearly 1000 mile journey through some of the most treacherous terrain on earth in some of the most inhospitable conditions imaginable, but it feels manufactured in ways to create an entertaining experience. For people who are almost in a life or death struggle with the elements, should there really be so much bickering and in-fighting, that doesn’t seem to let up throughout the eight-part series?