The I.D. Network's new show "Surviving Evil" brought some sad reality to press tour. Focused on people who survived encounters with would-be killers, actual survivors came to the panel -- including host Charisma Carpenter ("Buffy the Vampire Slayer").
Carpenter is the focus of the first episode, in which she recounts her own encounter with a rogue policeman who attacked her and two male friends on the beach in San Diego. While her friends were seriously injured, she managed to escape. "What was so brazen about my attacker is there were three of us and two of them were men. There were hordes of people on the beach that evening… I felt safe, [but] I wasn't. I think keeping evidence and fighting back is essential to survival and helping anyone else."
She also said that what she learned as a kid came in handy that day. "I'm a mom and I have a ten year old, and when I was ten years old I was told whatever they do to you, when they get you alone it's going to be 10 times worse. So if you're getting into a van [or being taken away], I would encourage anyone, fight back. I don't know if that's the legal response, but I think if you fight immediately, your chances of survival are better."
Carpenter was less inclined to blame primetime TV for making serial killers who target women. "I think it lends itself to the reality, which statistically is that this does happen to women more than men. There is a story [on our show] about a man who's attacked by a woman, so we do cover that as well. [But] I don't dwell on it. I don't dwell on what networks do or don't put out. I focus on what I'm doing and what I'm involved in, and I feel this show is told in a documentary style way and not a sensational away."
Survivor Lisa McVey, who has been in law enforcement for 16 years and was attacked by a serial killer at age 17, added, "This show is about humanity and taking a stance and fighting back."
"It doesn't show us being victims, but being strong and moving on," Teri Jendusa Niicolai, whose then-husband attempted to kill her, added.
"Maybe this format will inspire other networks to do the same," Carpenter summed up.
"We're here to be a voice for others who can't," McVey explained. "Every situation is different. I didn't have to physically fight but I fought. The show recognizes we're females; this can happen to men, but it's educational, it shows you you can prevail. Life goes on regardless… The moment I was plucked off my bicycle, that was when I realized I will do whatever it takes to survive. Just little things. I had to associate things I already grew up knowing. I grew up on the streets, and I used that to my benefit to say hey, I have to take a stand. If I was found dead, I wanted someone to know I left my mark."
In reference to a comment that TV seems to be creating a violent world, she continued, "I did watch a lot of cop shows back in the day. TV can be embellished, but when I watched cop shows, it just benefitted me. A week prior [to my attack] I was planning on suicide. I wasn't going out like that. It made me appreciate that my life was worth living." Still, she said what happened to her only "enhanced a little bit more" her long-held desire to become a police officer.
Though the show lacks the "do they survive or not" tension of most programming on the network, producer Pamela Deutsch said, "When you hear how they did this and what they went through, you're getting almost a play by play… and it can be very upsetting, but I do find it incredibly uplifting. It takes you on a real journey."
"How did they survive?" Carpenter asked. "That's the suspense. [She] was put in a barrel, packed in ice, locked in a storage locker. How did she survive? How did she get through that?"