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TV Review: Man vs. Wild Is Back For Another Season on The Discovery Channel

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Man vs. Wild with Bear Grylls is back for another season on the Discovery Channel, taking viewers along on scenic, dangerous escapades. In the season opening, Mr. Grylls and his cameraman are dropped on an Alaskan glacier in an attempt to make it to the ocean. Throughout the show, one is constantly thinking, "how can this be happening,” an element that keeps viewers coming back each season.

Within the opening shot, Mr. Grylls races across an unstable glacier and he turns back to his cameraman, encouraging him to cross. The cameraman crosses without plunging into the icy water, another dangerous feat that shocks the mind. The men on this show treat life-threatening scenarios like one treats crossing New York City streets: the situation could possibly kill you, but more likely, you’ll end up in a hospital. Except from the looks of Mr. Grylls’ surroundings, a hospital does not appear on the horizon.

The season opener provides an excellent visual guide to transitions in Alaskan terrain. As Mr. Grylls progresses down the glacier and runs across snow, he suddenly enters a dense forest, eventually arriving on vicious coastlines. The show does not provide a time line of events, which is a detriment. A constant question running through the show is how long did it take to go from point A to point B? It doesn't need to be an extended show, but some time frame would be beneficial.

One of the most interesting perspectives on the show is the cameraman's. Whenever Mr. Grylls accomplishes a daring feat, the cameraman takes on the role of assuring us that yes, this is happening. Between shots down a ravine, waves crashing into cliffs, the cameraman provides the nearest voice of reason, and makes the eventual decision to be bold. The cameraman takes you where you would never want to be: outside, no modern conveniences, the overwhelming smell of death.

While trying to cross a log that is several feet above a rushing stream, the log collapses into the water and Mr. Grylls manages to grab the ledge for safety. It’s moments like this in the show that make it compelling: they hint at the danger, but you never really know if it will happen or not until the horrible does occur.

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About Kate Brandli

  • backcountry

    What?!?! Is this article supposed to be serious or some sort of joke with a failed punch line? Bear Grylls doesn’t travel from point A to point B. The whole show is staged and scripted and sometimes the locations he films his stunts at are hundreds of miles apart. Discovery has released behind the scenes videos of how this show is made. Here’s one. You’ll note that “the dangerous feats that shock the mind” are actually carefully choreographed stunts, set up by a stunt coordinator with all of the appropriate safety gear for everyone involved, including Bear Grylls. The thing that the camera men truly deserve praise for is their uncanny ability to get all the action while they avoid showing any of the safety gear or any of the dozen or so support people (not to mention the roads, trails, and picnic shelters in the background). Anyone who actually believes that Bear Grylls is traveling through the wilderness seriously needs to watch the video. Hearing the director yell “ACTION” should dispel that notion.

  • Brandli

    Note to self, more research next time!

    But with your comment, I think it would be interesting if the producers did map out Bear Grylls travels. Even if the show is scripted, it would be beneficial to have some overarching perspective of where they are.

    And I’m wouldn’t call Mr. Grylls’ actions “stunts,” rather, they are actual risks he takes with proper safety precautions. A stunt in my mind is an illusion with an artistic angle, which I don’t think Mr. Grylls is after.

  • PreacherMan

    Staged or not the show is informative and educational. Bear Grylls feats in life are documented and are astounding. I like the show and will watch more.

  • backcountry

    Brandli- First I would like to apologize for the tone with which I started out my comment. It was unnecessary and you are just one of many people who have been duped. The truth is that Discovery has gone out of their way to confuse their audience as to how the show is made (the dc.com Man versus Wild website has no direct links to their behind the scenes videos for example) and Bear Grylls has gone so far as to flat out lie in interviews and on his own website. I realize this is a fairly serious accusation so I’ll offer a bit of proof. In the Siberia episode he claims the temperature is -25º to -30º degrees and on his website he claims it gets as low as -40º. But if you read his blog you’ll note that he was filming in Siberia late November- early December. We know he was in southern Siberia because he ends the show on the Trans Siberian Railroad. 5 minutes worth of research reveals that the average temp in that part of Siberia, at that time of the year is 10º-20º ABOVE zero. This is backed up by the facts that A- we don’t see his breath, which you would at about 10º and below and B- no reddening of the face which occurs at extremely low temps. It’s all just a bunch of BS to make Bear seem like more of a BA and hardcore. You can look past this kind of stuff on the show and just call it dramatic license. But to make these same claims in interviews and on his website? That’s just messed up.

    I agree with the idea of mapping out his locations but that would dispel the fantasy. In the South Dakota episode (my personal stomping grounds) for example, the place he starts and the place he (supposedly) finishes are at least 90 miles apart with major highways in between. So everyone would know he’s not actually on some journey through the wild. Also, when he claims to be in the Great Plains, he’s actually still in Custer State Park in the Black Hills. Doesn’t seem likely that they are going to point out their deception on a map.

    As for the use of the term stunt; in the last episode that I (partially) watched he daringly crosses this ravine and almost falls to his death when the rope slips. Was it risky? I’m sure it was, most stunts are. But after watching how the show is made, proper safety equipment and practices are obviously observed (as they should be). So… he claims to be crossing this ravine using a rope he found under a rock, held in place on one end with a homemade “grappling hook” fashioned from scrap metal and on the other end with a knot secured using an old coyote bone. Half way across the grappling hook slips a little and he falls off the rope just barely managing to maintain a grip with his hands. In between the characteristic Bear Grylls grunts of exertion he comments about what an inopportune time it was for his grappling hook to give. Obviously he wasn’t actually trusting his life to some old rope he found in the desert, a coyote bone and a piece a scrap metal he threw across a ravine and wedged in between some rocks so the whole “almost falling to his death” thing was intentionally added for dramatic purpose. That’s what I would call an “illusion with an artistic angle” or a stunt.

    P.S. sorry for such a long winded post but I’m pretty passionate about wilderness skills and the backcountry in general and hate to see them misrepresented in this way; especially when life saving advice is supposedly being given out. People, such as PreacherMan just don’t realize what total nonsense it actually is.

  • JohnDD

    The show is pure BS. I live in Arizona, hike a lot, and in the “grappling hook” episode it was laughable. First, in the middle of nowhere he finds a circle of rocks hiding a trap. I have walked DAYS and found nothing, let alone a circle of rocks hiding a trap. Then the clincher is that this little trap is tied to a heavy duy 30+ foot rope. Why is that, so the trapped animal can have a good scamper. Traps have short lines, not long heavy duty ropes. Of course these two things he salvaged from the desert are perfect for making the grappling hook. har de har har har. Plus, the guy runs all day in the heat and never sweats through his clothes. As comedy this show is OK, but for reality, no way. Then he kills a rattlesnake which was obviously planted and jabbed with a stick or something to make it rattle, because rattlesnakes under rocks, undisturbed do NOTHING. I know because we have them in our yard. The guy is a total fake and the show should be taken off the air.