• It takes a hardy sort to swim in icy-cold winter waters. (SBS / Michael Portillo's Abandoned Britain)Source: SBS / Michael Portillo's Abandoned Britain
From sharks to shaving cream, the life of a TV host throws up some unexpected challenges.
Kylie Walker

8 Mar 2019 - 12:50 PM  UPDATED 8 Mar 2019 - 12:50 PM

Hosting a TV show might look like a glamourous life. But the reality can sometimes be more fear than fun. What a host has to do – or volunteers to do, for the sake if the show - can sometimes demand rather a hefty dose of courage. Would you swallow a parasitic worm to test a health theory? Take a swim in almost-freezing water? Go swimming with sharks – without a cage?

Some television presenters go the extra step, as do their teams – the on-screen action often follows lengthy pre-planning to make things as safe as possible (and to satisfy the show’s insurers). Here are some who’ve been bringing their brave to SBS and SBS VICELAND recently.


Trust Me, I’m a (brave) Doctor

Dr Michael Mosley – who is back with SBS on Monday nights in the latest edition of Michael Mosley: Trust Me I’m A Doctor, and in the three-part series Dr Michael Mosley’s Reset, streaming now on SBS On Demand – has put his body on the line countless times to find out if a hyped-up health theory really works. For his popular  Trust Me I’m A Doctor series and other research, he’s swallowed tapeworm cysts cut from the tongue of a dead cow, ingested a microscopic camera and – despite being claustrophobic – headed deep underground into an increasingly narrow passage, for a program about fear.

“It was a little crack and I got stuck in the ground and I absolutely freaked. It obviously made good television because there was a lot of screams,” Mosley recalls. That particular experience left him with a permanent fear of small spaces.

As Mosley explains in his book The Clever Guts Diet, he ingested the tape worm cysts as part of an experiment to see if infection made people lose weight (he actually put on weight) and swallowed a camera to explore what happens in his gut (this one is more challenging as it sounds – to prepare, he had to fast for 36 hours and take some very strong laxatives, to make sure the tiny camera would have a clear view as it worked its way through his digestive system. You can watch the experiment in Guts on SBS On Demand until March 10).

It’s a much tamer time for him in the new series of Trust Me, I’m A Doctor (Monday nights, 8.30pm on SBS), where he hops on a bike (as part of an investigation of good-mood brain chemicals) and takes a tai chi lesson (can it deliver the same benefits as more vigorous efforts?).


Will a cold water swim kill or cure you?

In Michael Portillo's Abandoned Britain, our host joins a group of “brave, brave people” taking a more-than-bracing winter dip at Brighton Beach, in water that’s about 9° Celcius.

“I can tell from the people around me that they are really suffering from the cold,” says Portillo – who, although finding it a challenge, hasn’t fully embraced the experience: he’s wearing a wetsuit. His fellow swimmers, though, are not. So why put themselves through what sounds like torture? One of his fellow swimmers says the cold water relieves his arthritis pain.

Ice swimming is nothing new; there’s even an International Ice Swimming Association and a Winter Swimming Association here in Australia.

But is it worth the pain? There’s not a lot of research but those who do it swear by the health benefits and one theory suggests that becoming adapted to the stress of cold water could theoretically reduce our bodies’ inflammatory response, and also help us adapt to other stresses. But if you’re tempted to make like Portillo’s mates and throw yourself in the waves this winter, be aware that there are potential health risks. Like, unsurprisingly, hypothermia.

Watch the chill-inducing episode on Tuesday March 12, 7.35pm on SBS, or catch up on the series at SBS On Demand.


Mythbusting mayhem

How could we talk about brave TV hosts without a nod to the many seemingly dangerous builds, shoots, jumps, bangs and all the rest undertaken during the 14 seasons and more than 280 episodes of the original Mythbusters series.

Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman came up with thousands of ways to test theories, myths and movie scenes in often seemingly dangerous ways, using everything from duct tape and explosives to banana peels. While none of the cast suffered major injuries, things did go wrong – like the time the Mythbusters crew accidentally sent a cannonball crashing through the side of a house and then through a minivan window (luckily, no-one was injured).  

Apparently, a few broken fingers and occasional stitches was as bad as it got for the stars of the show, despite the dangers of almost 3000 experiments.

Scavenger hunt meets road trip – with lives and limbs in danger

Naked skating (with shaving cream in the equation to up the danger factor). A cageless openwater shark dive. Skating tricks in public bathrooms. In SBS VICELAND series King of the Road, a brace of pro skaters go on a road trip with a series of gnarly, oddball, and hair-raising challenges – some skating, some not -  to see who really is the ‘King of the Road’.

These guys and gals are used to tackling things that would scare the rest of us, with all of them demonstrating their willingness to skate over, through and under pretty much everything, but this road show puts them to the test on a whole new level. There are pranks and challenges, silliness and scariness and some things that are just downright weird (like hypnotised chooks).

Watch seasons 1 to 3 on SBS On Demand now:

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