At its most basic, “Siberia” is a direct heir to the found-footage genre so popular in horror films. The show takes 16 strangers out into the Russian wilderness — not coincidentally in the general area of the Tunguska event of 1908 — and leaves them there. Those who survive a Siberian winter at a primitive camp will share in a monetary prize.
It’s unfortunate for the contestants that someone or something wants to make sure that no one makes it to spring. Deaths begin in the premiere episode, and horror promises to follow close behind.
None of this is real, of course. Liability laws and general human decency prohibit such carnage on actual reality television, after all. No matter how close to reality “Siberia” comes in its style — and the show does come close with cast interviews and awkward shots — fiction reigns in the end.
Interestingly, this fiction makes “Siberia” a little like another paranormal show about survival, “Lost.” There are even strange and sinister noises coming from the trees once the sun goes down! Aliens, monsters, evil producers or even a hoax are possible sources for this noise — and for later bloodshed — but the premiere wisely gives nothing away.
Is “Siberia” a little hokey at times? Of course it is, but how else could the show simulate the feel and look of a reality show. To its credit, this program does feature un-credited and unknown actors in all of its roles, and they’re only as beautiful/weird as you’d expect from reality television.
It isn’t real. But you’d be hard-pressed to find any major differences (other than the monsters/death) between “Siberia” and the heavily scripted reality series so popular today. No one thinks viewers see everything of the Kardashians, and the “Real Housewives” are constantly scripted and directed.
What makes “Siberia” any less real than that?
“Siberia” airs Mondays at 10pm, starting on July 1 on NBC.