Opposing US senators star in 'Rival Survival' reality TV show in South Pacific

Senators Martin Heinrich (left), a Democrat from New Mexico, and Jeff Flake (right), a Republican from Arizona, sweat it out for a week on a desert island with a camera crew in tow in Discovery Channel's one-off telecast Rival Survival, fil
Senators Martin Heinrich (left), a Democrat from New Mexico, and Jeff Flake (right), a Republican from Arizona, sweat it out for a week on a desert island with a camera crew in tow in Discovery Channel's one-off telecast Rival Survival, filmed in the Marshall Islands. -- PHOTOS: MARTIN HEINRICH, JEFF FLAKE

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Two US senators from opposing camps took their shared interest in spearfishing to the South Pacific for a reality TV show intended to teach gridlock Washington a lesson in teamwork.

Rival Survival finds Jeff Flake, a Republican from Arizona, and Martin Heinrich, a Democrat from New Mexico, sweating it out for a week on a desert island with a camera crew in tow.

"If you want to see a Republican suffer and a Democrat suffer, you're going to be happy" when Discovery Channel telecasts the one-off programme worldwide, Heinrich said Thursday.

"I can assure you, we were very afraid - but not naked," added Flake in a nod to the network's more risquee tropical survivalist series Naked And Afraid.

At a preview in Washington, the senators said they came up with the idea 18 months ago when, during breaks in a marathon budget vote, they discovered they were both into spearfishing.

Their original plan was to film their adventure themselves using GoPro cameras, before Discovery came on board with a full production crew that commuted daily from a nearby island.

Pitting themselves against nature, Flake, 51, and Heinrich, 42, struggled to ignite a fire in the rain, build a shelter out of palm leaves and fish for their dinner in a turquoise lagoon.

Flake brought with him a raft of experience: he's twice visited the Marshall Islands, where Rival Survival was filmed, for solo and family survivalist holidays.

"Early on, I thought, 'This is a crazy idea'," recalled Heinrich.

"But then the more we both experienced where the Senate is today, and the frustrations we have making it a more functional place - then we thought there was huge potential."

Both men returned home with sunburns, swollen limbs and a fervent desire never to taste coconut juice again, after consuming about 20 coconuts a day to stave off dehydration.

"Everybody's into this coconut water fad," Heinrich quipped. "Jeff and I are so over that."

Rival Survival airs Oct 29 in the United States. It's also set to be telecast in Discovery Channel's more than 200 overseas markets.