River Monsters is one of the shows that I look forward to on Sunday. With Amazing Race over and Big Brother not starting yet, I lean on good old Animal Planet for my Sunday night viewing. Please join me at the Viva Doc forum on Sunday Night so we can talk about what crazy Jeremy Wade is up to.
Jeremy Wade is a biologist and extreme angler. Chases down man-eating fish in the Amazon River Basin. The first time I watched Jeremy, he was dangling his toes into a pool that was holding 100 starving red-belly piranhas. All the Animal Planet teasers told me that he was going to get into the pool but the progression of the 3 minute scene is was made me a fan of the show.
Before getting into the pool, Jeremy had to raise the stakes by proving to us that these piranhas are as hungry as he says they are. He does this by pouring blood into the pool to show that the smell of it riles them up. I use the word smell with confidence because Jeremy's voice over puts his biology background to use by explaining how the fish has a sense of smell that evolved from living in murky, cloudy water.
This scientific approach to the scene continues as he dangles a piece of prime steak into the pool using a fishing line. This is the first time in the scene where the pool of fish is portrayed as dangerous. Their efficiency comes from their numbers. The way the piranha tears off one piece of meat, let's everyone know where the food is and leaves so that someone else can take a bite. Each fish takes what it can use and leaves the rest for the next fish, that's community. The scene gave me a respect for the piranha and the footage of them at work gave me a fear of them too.
This fear is what makes the climax of the scene so effective. Jeremy steps into the pool very gingerly and there seems to be a safe buffer around him. However, as his body language relaxes, the fish get closer and become comfortable around him. They let a few shots linger so that you can see the piranhas sniffing his toes, increasing the drama. He claims that this proves that they won't go after live animals but I wonder if he'd be willing to pour some blood in the pool while he is in it… I wouldn't.
Jeremy's “check this out” approach, along with his enthusiasm for the river make his stories of man-eating River Monsters a special treat on television. As a friend of mine said, “Every time I'm channel surfing, I get stuck on this program.” That's the power of a storyteller.