Man vs. Wild
Posted to Teevee at 07:35 PM on Dec 13, 2006
Bear Grylls is a badass.
Even better, Bear Grylls is a badass with a sexy accent.
He served in the British Special Forces, was the youngest person ever to climb Mount Everest, and he owns his own island off Wales. Now he has his own show, in which he shares his survival secrets. Every week, we go to a different perilous locale with Bear and learn how to get out alive.
Some trips go better for Bear than others. His shoes melt as he traverses a particularly hazardous section of Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park. He and his crew might be in real danger, but Bear is so tough, he laughs as his shoes catch fire. Only the late, great Steve Irwin seemed to take more joy in his job, which just happens to be really, really dangerous. Bear has yet to stare down a man-eating animal, but I'm sure he'd come out victorious when he does.
Bear is hardly like a typical unlucky tourist. Years of experience keep him from falling off cliffs or drowning or eating poisonous snakes. Those are years of experience that some pasty car salesman from Minnesota sorely lacks. Mr. Pasty is not going to have the skills or knowledge or strength of a mountain climber, no matter how many episodes he watches. This show cannot really prepare someone for what'll happen if he wanders too far off a hiking trail. I can enjoy this show as travel porn, but as a how-to, I have issues.
On top of that, whether it be in the Costa Rican rain forest, or on the volcano on Mount Kilauea, Bear is never really alone. He's got at leat one camera dude (most likely two) and one sound dude with him at all times. I have a feeling that if push came to shove, his crew would not hesitate to give him a hand. That, for me, shatters the illusion just a smidgeon. Bear won't die, and neither will his crew.
However. Bear has a great sense of humor. He's passionate. He takes his job seriously. That comes through and it's infectious. He's not afraid to go to extremes in the name of education. In one episode, he jumps into a freezing lake, explains the dangers of wet clothing in sub-freezing temperatures, and strips naked. He eats things not usually consumed outside of Fear Factor. It's a little hard to watch, frankly, sometimes. Moments in this series feel like all the worst parts of reality TV. Somehow, we think we're really not supposed to witness Bear wrapping a urine-soaked shirt around his head. It feels too personal, too intrusive. I would probably not be happy to have video of me eating a snake broadcast on TV, but that's why Bear is on TV and I'm not, I guess. Did I mention the accent?
Man vs. Wild airs on the Discovery Channel