A Look at the Discovery Channel Shows Man Vs. Wild and Survivorman
Les Stroud, my favorite survival expert, called it quits after filming his third season of “Survivorman”. Stroud cited the terrible toll that extended periods of survival were taking on his body and mind as one of his primary reasons for leaving his popular show. Talk about bummed out, now the only guy left on The Discovery Channel to give survival advice is that fraud Bear Grylls and his show “Roughing it at the Marriott”, er, I mean, “Man vs. Wild”. For those of you unfamiliar with these two rival wilderness survivors here is a quick look at each show and how they stack up.
Host Les Stroud places himself in the middle of some of the most inhospitable places on earth with no food or water. Alone and carrying only a multi-tool, around 50 pounds of camera gear and a few miscellaneous odds and ends, Stroud films himself surviving for 7 days while also educating the viewer on survival techniques and strategies.
Synopsis: Man vs. Wild
Host Bear Grylls places himself in the middle of some of the most inhospitable places on earth with no food or water. With a camera and production crew tagging along but carrying little in the way of survival gear, Grylls is filmed surviving in the wilderness for an indeterminate period of time while also educating the viewer on survival techniques and strategies.
The Host: Survivorman
Les Stroud is pretty mild mannered. His delivery on the show (and his sense of humor) is relatively dry, though still entertaining, and he approaches each survival situation cautiously and with a great deal of respect for the power of his rugged environment. Stroud takes his time and conservatively goes about searching for water and food.
The Host: Man vs. Wild
Bear Grylls is to surviving, what the X-Games are to motorcycles. Everything on the show is done to the extreme and with an eye toward stylized stunts. Grylls approaches each survival situation with an air of bravado and athletic zeal that places more emphasis on putting himself in dangerous positions by climbing cliffs and trees then actually showing nuts and bolts survival methods. Grylls search for food and water could best be classified as…gross, more on that in a moment.
The Show’s Style: Survivorman
Each episode of “Survivorman” follows the day by day progress of Les Stroud as he forages for food and builds shelters to protect himself from the elements. Often Les will begin with a hypothetical scenario, such as a plane crash or mountain biking accident, to illustrate how to make the most out of every available resource. Each of the shows is notable for the mounting symptoms of isolation that Stroud exhibits. When things go wrong it is written all over his face and echoed in his voice. The grim reality of being alone in the wilderness is most apparent when Stroud is forced to spend his nights talking to the camera because the elements will not allow him to sleep.
The Show’s Style: Man vs. Wild
Each episode of “Man vs. Wild” follows Bear Grylls from one contrived adventure to another. The producers of the show would have you believe that the only way to survive outside is to become a movie action hero and take ghastly risks with your body. The show usually follows a pretty standard set-up: Grylls skydives into his “remote” location with his crew, does assorted stunts, and eats something…wriggly. This last part cannot be overstated, Grylls takes every opportunity to eat something vile and disgusting. According to Grylls this is not for shock value, no, this is to show you what lengths you must go to in order to survive. Where cooking something would seem safer and make things more palatable, Grylls prefers to eat things alive. His signature opened mouth chomping, which makes every disgusting morsel visible to the viewer, is only a bit more disgusting then his habit of…wait for it…drinking his own unfiltered urine. Ugh…I just threw up in my mouth a little.
Not a whole lot of controversy with Les Stroud’s production, well, other then the fact he is Canadian. Kind of tough to get over that part. But hey, you can’t pick where you were born, can you?
Controversy: Man vs. Wild
Oh boy, where to begin? It would seem that Mr. Grylls might have been in the habit of misrepresenting his circumstances a bit. In July of 2007 a British television network, Channel 4, reported that Grylls was not
staying in the wild as he claimed; rather he often stayed in motels and instead of actually building many of the survival tools he used in the field (such as a raft) these items were built by his crew and then disassembled for Grylls to rebuild in front of the cameras. This YouTube
video illustrates some of Bear’s harrowing adventures. This video here illustrates the “Man vs. Wild” experience best
, note when the intrepid host says, “…because you don’t know what’s solid and what’s hollow…”. you can’t sum up the show any better then that.
The real glaring differences in the show come down to taste (and not the taste of those nasty critters Bear Grylls insists on eating, eww); do you like education or adventure? Would you rather learn genuine survival tips and learn how to cope on your own in the wild or would you rather just see someone place their body at risk and throw caution to the wind? If you actually want to learn about survival the choice is pretty easy. Try some of Bear’s extreme techniques in an actual survival situation. The sequence should go something like; climbed waterfall for no good reason, broke my leg, lay defenseless for two days, and then was eaten by a wolverine. End of survival.
For their part, the producers and host of “Man vs. Wild” now readily admit that the show is not about Bear’s continuous survival, it is an action/adventure show with survival elements sprinkled on for flavor. For me that is the difference and the deciding factor between the two shows. Anybody can survive like Bear Grylls, hell I spent three straight nights at a Holiday Inn once! Top that Bear!
So, good luck Les and enjoy your survival retirement. We will all miss your show and the valuable information you shared. And Bear, I’ll see you in line for the continental breakfast, make sure not to eat the last bagel this time.