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Why ABC's Volcano Live Special With Nik Wallenda Made Some Viewers Mad

nik wallenda abc volcano live!

When it comes to non-traditional TV specials, I think we can all agree that a live viewing of someone walking across the mouth of a volcano via tightrope is a one-of-a-kind broadcast. The act itself is nothing too strange for the titular daredevil in ABC's Volcano Live! with Nik Wallenda, though, since Wallenda has for years made spectacles out of his danger-filled tightrope walks. Viewers were seemingly pumped to watch it all happen, but a section of the audience immediately turned on Wallenda and ABC in a negative way.

Given how much build-up the special has gotten on ABC, and through the daredevil's own social media, many viewers were expecting to see Nik Wallenda making his historic Volcano Live! walk without any big safety precautions. You know, since there hadn't been much attention given to anything resembling safety, with all the emphasis put on RISKS and DANGERS. And yet, Wallenda made his walk secured with a safety harness.

While there were certainly viewers that congratulated Nik Wallenda and his team and gave them the benefit of the doubt, many others on Twitter and beyond were less quick to be complimentary. Take this dismissive post, for instance.

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Presumably few people out there would readily replicate Nik Wallenda's walk, which went down 1,800 feet above an active volcano. Still, some viewers had zero trouble mocking the guy for donning his safety harness. The daredevil had reportedly stated in the past that he would refuse to wear harnesses again, since that's tantamount to blasphemy in the stunt-friendly Wallenda family, but it obviously happened again here.

Ignore the typos below and stay for the Jim Carrey spit take.

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Even in the Volcano Live! special's lead up to the actual walk, the stunt's danger quotient was being played up by ABC. Which likely only helped to draw out more displeased responses from people.

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For what it's worth, however, Nik Wallenda was definitely not the person responsible for making sure the safety harness was used in the special. He puts that blame on ABC execs, who were also the ones that forced him to wear a harness for his Highwire Live in Times Square special in 2019, in which he and sister Lijana traversed a high-wire 25 stories above street level. ABC also had him wear a safety harness during his 2012 wire walk above Niagra Falls.

Here's how Nik Wallenda put it himself to the Herald Tribune.

That’s for ABC. It is what it is. It’ll be the same as Times Square.

Viewers were also surprised to see Nik Wallenda wearing a gas mask during his tight rope walk, though that element seemingly got a lot less flak from people. Perhaps because adding more weight and gear actually made things harder for Wallenda's walk, even if it made it easier for him to breathe clear air. In his words, ahead of the big walk:

It’s a big deal because it adds more bulk. Actually, my back has been in more pain than it’s ever been before, because it’s pulling me back. So I’ve added more stress and more bulk, meaning that if there are any winds, I’m less aerodynamic.

Regardless of the safety harness, Nik Wallenda still managed to walk the entire distance without any major hiccups, though who knows what might have happened had he gone into it without one? Perhaps just that difference in weight would have been enough to trip him up.

Something tells me there won't be any TV networks calling this Twitter user up to secure the rights to his daredevil TV special idea.

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Will Nik Wallenda choose to go with another network for his next big live TV stunt, or will Disney's ABC continue being the main source of funding for these specials? Hopefully it won't take a volcano eruption for us to find out. In the meantime, though, be sure to check out our Winter and Spring TV premiere schedule to see what new and returning shows are debuting soon.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.