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Surviving in TV Wilderness

Arts & Entertainment

by Malisa Morris, SPC student and capable woman!

Man Vs. Wild, starring Bear Grylls, and Survivorman, starring Les Stroud, are both educational survival shows that provide helpful knowledge of common survival situations. These two shows are also real and entertaining in their own ways, but recently Man Vs. Wild star Bear Grylls was fired by the Discovery Channel. While the source of the contract dispute is unknown, an examination of both shows highlights what it takes to be successful.

Each host has different qualifications that have helped him become a survival expert. Bear Grylls, host of Man Vs. Wild on the Discovery channel, served in the British Special Air Services for three years. Bear has also climbed Mount Everest and wrote a book on his experience. Lastly, he led the first unassisted crossing of the frozen North Atlantic Ocean in an inflatable raft.

Les Stroud, host of Survivorman on the Discovery and Science channels, started his filming career in the 1980’s as a music video producer in Canada. After growing tired of sitting in an office every day, he decided to leave and live in the wild. Stroud spent seven years traveling Canada as a canoe guide and wilderness instructor. After marrying his wife Susan, they took a year honeymoon and lived in the Boreal Forest in northern Ontario like it was 500 years ago.

The first of my three criteria is helpfulness. If I was lost, I would not be able to count on Bear Grylls’ show to help me survive because he doesn’t break anything that he does down. And isn’t the whole point of these shows, to give people knowledge that would help them survive? After many episodes of this show, I haven’t taken away anything except don’t drink still water.

Now, Les Stroud’s show is a different story! Stroud goes to greater lengths than any survival show I have seen yet. In every episode, Stroud brings a piece of equipment, such as ‘Fire dust’, from a survival store and tests it. Stroud also shows step by step instructions of crucial processes that will most likely occur if you or I were stuck in the wilderness. A few examples that he has broken down would be starting a fire with a battery, with flint, with chocolate and a soda pop can, and also taking the husk off of a coconut safely. In one episode, Les Stroud rubs a tiny bit of the chocolate all over the bottom of the soda pop can over and over, letting the wax from the chocolate buff the bottom of the can until it’s shiny enough to catch and focus the sunlight onto his bundle of firewood. This actually made a fire! I was amazed. Stroud also gives valuable information such as using the oil from inside a coconut as sunscreen if you’re stranded on a tropical island. During Survivorman, helpful hints also appear in the bottom corner of the screen as extra information. Based on this information, I found that Survivorman with Les Stroud was more helpful.

I also decided to compare the two shows based on realism. Being really lost is when you, and perhaps another person, are left with just the clothes on your back and your backpack filled with the things you got from Sports Authority before you left. While both Grylls and Stroud are dropped into a different remote location in every episode, Grylls is always joined by his camera crew and is often given aid. Situations are also presented to them so that they can demonstrate survival techniques. In Survivorman, Stroud is absolutely alone for seven days and operates three to five cameras all day and night. Stroud is left alone with 50 pounds of camera equipment and a few items that are often used by people that are in that situation for real. I find that Survivorman is more real than Man Vs. Wild.

The last thing I decided to criticize these two shows on was entertainment value. I find them both entertaining, honestly. Grylls is kind of silly when he runs around everywhere. What I don’t like is how the show is constantly edited, showing Grylls in one scene and then in a completely different scene two seconds later. I could also do without the unnecessary killing that Grylls does. There is often plenty of good vegetation around the places he’s dropped into. If he would stop, he could eat some plants rather than just killing random frogs, bugs, or rabbits. Stroud’s show is entertaining as well. Stroud is funny and is always talking into his cameras to keep from going crazy, I assume. His shots are continuous and hardly edited. There’s nothing missing because he doesn’t turn off his cameras. The only noticeable editing in Survivorman is when he shows things in time lapse or fast forwarding. For example, Stroud’s show will show a view of the sun going down in one continuous shot for two or three minutes instead of the usual hour it takes. Lastly, Stroud doesn’t kill unless absolutely necessary. In my opinion, Survivorman is much more entertaining than Man Vs. Wild.

Even though Man Vs. Wild has completed six successful seasons, Discovery has terminated all productions with Grylls due to contractual disputes. Discovery has not been able to get Grylls to participate in two unannounced projects that they contracted him in. Survivorman will be returning from a break in production with their fourth season, which will air in the summer of 2012. The fourth season will hold a special change; ten day survivals instead of the normal seven.

So between Man Vs. Wild and Survivorman, Survivorman won in each of the three criteria. Les Stroud was more helpful because he gave more useful information that could be taken away from the show. Stroud also was more real because he does not use a camera crew nor does he receive aid. Survivorman is also a more entertaining television show because Les Stroud tries to make being stranded in random places more fun for himself by talking into his cameras. After analyzing these three criteria, I have found that Survivorman with Les Stroud is a better television show than Man Vs. Wild.

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