The main problem was that the tiger would either eat the child in the first half hour of the show, or the tiger would act like a big house cat until it starved to death.
The desired effect of the show was that the cat would behave like a house cat with the inevitable, intended promise that it would eventually freak out and eat the boy. The boy through cunning and guile had to survive — not that the boy would survive because he had bonded with the cat. This was the problem they had uncovered after going through several hundred test boys — that is boys without any clear identifying information that they had bought from the homes on the streets of LA. Four hundred bucks bought a functional seven-year or eight year old. They preferred English speakers, but many of the boys spoke Spanish. One boy spoke a haunted babble they could not identify but thought might be Linear Pict X. Thirty of the boys died within minutes of getting launched in the test lot with the tiger.
They tested five tigers — and this became a problem, too, because the tigers that learned to kill continued to kill (and got better at executing the boys) and so the producers learned that once a tiger did the kill, it would keep killing. And this became part of their thought process in putting the boys in the boat with the tiger. They would have to have a supply of tigers, as well.
Of course all of the boys had to die because no one could know how they had perfected the show. It had a lot of problems, this show. It was a delicate balance to get it to work.
Yann Martel had to be contacted and he threatened to sue if they went ahead with the show. The public domain idea, he said, was a boy and a wild cat. A boy and a tiger in a lifeboat, I have that copyrighted. If you do this, my lawyers will contact you. So they paid him a half million dollars for the rights and threatened to say they would call it ?Yann Martel?s Tiger in a Lifeboat,? playing both to his ego (like anyone even knew who this guy was) and his pretension, what kind of literary guy was he if he?d originated a reality cable show?
Reality was played out anyway. This was a latch ditch effort to get some interest behind the show. Early one morning in a warehouse in Burbank, they launched the boy and the tiger in the lifeboat, and waited.