Naked Reality

Discovery Channel next Sunday (March 16) will debut the second season of its successful reality series Naked and Afraid. The series, which each week pairs a naked man and woman who together must survive in a harsh environment without the benefit of food, water, tools or clothes, will itself have to survive in what has become a crowded cable landscape of in-the-buff reality programming.

Since Naked and Afraid’s June 2013 debut — which followed the May 2013 premiere of Discovery’s three-episode special Naked Castaway — cable networks have pulled the covers off the genre, launching several naked- titled shows that — not surprisingly, given their provocative titles — have delivered titillating ratings.

Syfy’s Naked Vegas, about artists who create unique artwork using nude male and female models as their canvas, drew more than 1.1 million viewers during its fall 2013 run.

TLC’s Buying Naked, a real-estate series that features nudist couples in search of a home sweet home that may or may not require clothing, rang viewers’ bell, drawing more than 1 million in its November 2013 premiere.

Coming to the boob tube later this year is VH1’s Naked Dating, which strips down the concept of the reality-TV dating series. Couples will literally leave all preconceptions of each other at the door when, in search of a potential love connection, they meet for the first time disrobed.

Sex and nudity sell — just ask the producers of many original series on the premium cable channels. While each of basic cable’s naked reality shows yield to the television censors, conveniently blurring out shots of the characters’s private parts — or conveniently placing statues, bookshelves or other objects in front of them — the shows appear to be provocative and entertaining enough for viewers to tune in and watch.

As the originator of the recent trend of naked shows, Discovery is hoping, in the sophomore campaign, to build on the average 3.3 million viewers who tuned into the first season of Naked and Afraid. Given the early ratings success of the genre, it seems like there’s no limit to the amount of naked programming viewers are willing to watch.

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.