A while back, I let it be known I had in mind to follow a UK-based reality show (broadcast here on Wednesday nights on Channel 22 over six weeks) called SPECIAL FORCES: ULTIMATE HELL WEEK.
The idea of this program was to take 22 of England’s fittest civilians (marathoners, endurance athletes, former olympians etc) and subject them to 12 days of intense and sleep-deprived Special Forces military training. The aim, apart from generating a sizable audience to witness these bouts of televised torture, was to gradually weed out the also-rans from the fire-breathing serious contenders in order to arrive at a last-person standing ‘winner’ by the final episode.
Series one of this ‘show’ aired two years ago. In that incarnation, 29 Bravo-Two-Zero wannabees were put through similarly harrowing challenges designed to test (and break) their mental and physical reserves. That series was won by a 55kg, 32 year old female (Dr Claire Miller) and reignited the debate about whether women should be allowed to join Special Forces units.
Wednesday night’s episode was the final, and as such only three competitors remained – two females and a male. For a while there it looked like things were headed for a similar result to Series One, before it was announced the fit looking gentleman pictured at the front of the line in the photo above, 28 year old Londoner Onyiuke (that’s his first name) -who listed his real life job as Project Manager – would get the honours.
Over the six episodes of the program, these ‘pain warrior’ recruits were pushed to breaking point by ex-instructors from Special Forces units from six different countries –
France Poland Sth Africa U.S. Sth Korea Australia
There was blood, bruises and plenty of blisters. Waterboarding, hooded interogations and induced hypothermia also got a regular look-in. Carrying heavy concrete blocks across rough terrain while weighed down with 30kg backpacks (sorry.. bergens) was a standard warm up.
‘Highlights’ for me (yes, I feel a little guilty calling them that) included the sight of recruits drinking the blood and eating the liver of a freshly slaughtered springbok (one of those Sth African deer things). And most who watched would remember the moment in Episode 4 when the bearded guy (2nd from the front in the picture above) abruptly exited the show after telling the Sth Korean instructor exactly what he could do with his request to assume the thinking man’s stress position (standing on your head) for the 59th time after yet another perceived minor discipline breach.
So what’s the attraction to these torture-as-entertainment type reality shows? That’s probably better left as a dedicated post for another day but suffice to say the crazy Japanese game shows of the 80’s that started this modern phenomena have a lot to answer for. It would not surprise me if the yet to be announced Season 3 of SPECIAL FORCES: ULTIMATE HELL WEEK included a brief foray into cannibalism.
If that kind of ‘next-level’ mental toughness exercise actually did ever get the go-ahead, things would still be ok: just as long as nobody tried acting the clown. I’ve heard comedians taste funny. (Ok, 20 pushups for me for that poor imitation of a joke!)