From Elephant Dung to Urine, This Man Does It All
I have been hearing about the TV show Man Vs. Wild for a while now, but hadn’t seen it yet until yesterday. For those unfamiliar, it is a reality television show starring “Bear” Grylls, a Brit who puts himself in extreme situations in the wild and depicts extreme survival techniques, including drinking his own urine and escaping quicksand. In this particular episode, he was placed on top of a mountain in Alaska, and armed with nothing but skis and the clothes on his back, had to be rescued. He proceeds to ski down, slide down a glacier (or “glass-ier” as he calls it), make his way through thick brush, make a makeshift tent out of pine branches and avoid black bears for the night, find an abandoned skiff (which of course sinks), swim through arctic cold water, catch and eat raw fish, and finally hail a boat passing through. I was mesmerized/incredulous for most of the show, whether it was because of his funny accent or his sheer ability to put himself in some of the difficult/stupidest situations I have ever seen. Either way it is pretty much must-watch television.
I did some research on Bear, and it turns out he was in the UK Special Forces, where he was trained in unarmed combat, desert and winter warfare, combat survival, medics, parachuting, signals, evasive driving, climbing and explosives. However, he was injured in a freak accident in 1996, when a parachute exercise in southern Africa went wrong, his canopy ripped, and he spiraled toward earth from 16,000 ft at twice the normal speed, resulting in three broken vertebrae and the loss of feeling in his legs. He know holds a rank of Lt. Commander in the UK’s Royal Naval Reserve. He proceeded to become the youngest Briton ever to climb Everest and return alive, doing so at the age of 23. So naturally he continues to throw himself into danger by hosting a survivor TV show. These days he lives on a converted barge on the River Thames with his wife Shara and his sons Jesse and Marmaduke, and also owns an island on the Welsh coast, which includes a nature reserve.
Another similar show, Surivorman, depicts a Canadian, Les Stroud, who must survive the elements in a remote location for seven days with little food or equipment. The main difference here is that Les does not have the luxury of a camera crew, he instead must film all sequences himself, carry around his camera equipment, and should anything tragic happen, it would be a while before anyone else knew.
So which is the better show? I haven’t seen Survivorman, but I do hear that he does tend to complain a lot about his situation and whine how he has to to film everything twice. Which is pretty badass, if you think about it, considering every hill he climbs he has to climb again just to set film himself (once again) climbing it. However, there are limitations to this method -there are certain things you could not do twice, as in the case of Bear Grylls, who slides down that glacier. I do have to give the man props for carrying all that, tho, and putting his life on the line. Bear puts his life on the line too, but I have my doubts whether or not that camera crew is helping him at all during his antics or handing some Powerbars over. It does come off a bit less authentic when his boat sinks yet his camera crew clearly must be in a boat beside him. Bear does jump in the water, though, and drinks urine, bites raw fish, etc. things that Survivorman does not necessarily come to. It is a bit over the top, but the point is, as he points out, to show the most extreme situations he can whenever possible and find a way out. In other words, the entertainment never ceases.
Forget Shark Week, Discovery Channel, this is your prime time show.