“Man vs. Wild” is my favorite Discovery show. Star Bear Grylls is a low-key, soft-spoken ex-commando Briton who parachutes into the Rockies, Sierras, Alps, Utah high desert, jungles of Costa Rica, tropical islands, volcanic islands and generally any place you ought not to be if you know what’s good for you. Typically, Bear is dropped into some gawdawful remote and hostile place with only the clothes on his back, a knife, and (usually) a fire starter flint. When he doesn’t have the flint, he’s convincing with the old Indian fire stick technique, though I hope to gosh I never have to do that myself.
Bear has scaled Everest, so he is really competent at climbs that frighten me just to watch them. He knows survival inside and out in any type of climate or terrain. If you found yourself lost or stranded in a hostile terrain, days from civilization, chances are you wouldn’t have a map, compass, backpacking survival gear or a change of clothes. Bear brings none of those survival amenities, either. He shows you how to improvise on the fly, what to look out for, and what to avoid. He lives off the land, fends off the travails and dangers of the night, and finds his way back to human habitation within five days.
I have to admit I like Bear as a person. He’s a warm but low-key, outward-directed and incredibly knowledgeable individual who actually directs his narrative to the theme – surviving in diverse, isolated and dangerous environments. His dialog is utterly free of the self-serving, back-patting macho patter of other similar shows.
Anyone who can casually remind you that when you jump 80 feet down into a body of water, you have to keep your body and legs vertically straight or you’ll kill yourself, and then do it, is pretty cool in my book. Bear loves nature and the outdoors. It shows in the way he talks about it and the way he tells us what he sees.
The survival skills are real. They are clearly and cooly demonstrated. Bear (his real name) focuses on the environment and what he has to know and do in order to get through it safely. The photography is superb. There is always a low-key natural history lesson. And I’ll always be there watching, when I catch the time; I don’t care that much when it’s a re-run. It’s good solid adventure under any circumstance.
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