One of the most remarkable shows on television, "Survivorman" is a nature/survival documentary series that airs on the Discovery Channel. The third season is - as of the writing of this review - running on Friday nights. The series is unique and impressive in the fact that it's all one man - survival expert Les Stroud, who ventures off into a new remote area of the world each episode to spend seven days trying to survive with the absolute barest of essentials.
The fact that Stroud is off by himself means that Stroud is also responsible for filming with multiple cameras (and, given the one guy aspect of the series, he's also responsible for lugging the equipment - which reportedly weighs around 50 pounds) throughout whatever harsh and beautiful location he's selected this week.) At the end of seven days, a rescue crew goes out to hunt for Stroud, but they aren't always successful at finding him right away - and there are times when he must venture out and try to find them.
The locations are breathtakingly beautiful, but also incredibly desolate (for example, an island in the South Pacific) and wild - completely off the beaten path. This is also a nature show, but I always have enjoyed the fact that it's not a nature show that seeks out specific species, it's a nature show where specific species happen to naturally wander by. I can't think of another series that puts one into the reality of each environment mor The show is primarily focused on survival skills, and Stroud makes an excellent host - despite some incredibly tough situations, Stroud still often manages to bring the occasional instance of good humor, sometimes playing the harmonica that he brings along on every challenge (and they are often refered to as "challenges", and for very good reason. There are times when Stroud even makes it worse for himself, to create a greater challenge.)
The challenges take place in areas ranging from the Amazon (where Stroud seems to be absolutely covered at times with all manner of bugs) to Alaska - Stroud certainly doesn't limit himself to a particular climate and displays incredible skill at handling varied situations. As mentioned above, Stroud even sometimes makes it worse for himself by intent: in the barren, freezing wilderness of Labrador, Stroud is traveling by dogsled, and then - in the middle of the journey - lets the dogs go in order to simulate what often happens: the dogs get loose and simply keep going.
Stroud offers some excellent tips throughout each episode, with some of the most interesting being some of the minor edibles that can be found out in the wilds. Stroud also often builds camp and tries to hunt for food once he gets settled in. However, Stroud often finds that things do not go according to plan and he must quickly rethink where and how to get food. The whole time, Stroud must - often with low energy - try to figure out how to best film his activities (and he's mostly quite successful, although there are times where, due to humidity or other issues, some of Stroud's cameras shut down.)
There are a couple of episodes that are a little less eventful than others (the "Alaska" episode on this season being one of them), but even the lesser episodes of the series are still entertaining and informative. Stroud has reportedly said that the third season of the series will be his last, due to the wear of doing the show. While his feelings are understandable, I can only hope he'll change his mind, as "Survivorman" is simply outstanding television.
12. 2- 1 10 Aug 07 Kalahari
13. 2- 2 17 Aug 07 Amazon
14. 2- 3 24 Aug 07 Labrador
15. 2- 4 31 Aug 07 African Plains
16. 2- 5 7 Sep 07 Alaska
17. 2- 6 13 Sep 07 South Pacific
VIDEO: "Survivorman" is presented by Image Entertainment in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. The presentation quality is very good, as the presentations look mostly crisp (with the exception of some of the night vision sequences, which understandably look softer than the rest.) Although a touch of pixelation is seen during a couple of scenes, the show otherwise appeared smooth and clean in appearance. Colors looked natural and seemed spot-on.
SOUND: The show is presented with a crisp stereo presentation that offers a full, rich score and clear dialogue.
EXTRAS: "The Making of Survivorman" is an episode-length look at the making of the season, with small segments of the documentary taking a look at the development (such as scouting the location, editing while filming, working with local guides, etc.) of each of the episodes. "Surviving Alaska" is a terrific special hosted by Stroud, which is split into several segments where Stroud demonstrates what to do in potential situations in Alaska (although it could certainly work for any Wintery situation.) This special is essentially a series of "controlled experiments" - there are other people and a camera crew there. If Stroud doesn't want to continue "Survivorman", I'm hoping he'll at least do another, similar show (and maybe one like this.)
Final Thoughts: "Survivorman" is simply outstanding television, as Stroud makes an entertaining and informative host (while also doing an expert job of playing the role of cinematographer.) The DVD set for season 2 offers very good audio/video quality, as well as a couple of nice bonus features. Highly recommended.