In recent years, the Discovery Channel has played host to two particularly interesting shows - both very different in approach, but both dealing with how to attempt to survive in difficult conditions around the globe. While Les Stroud's "Survivorman" has unfortunately called it quits due to the wear the production was taking on the show's host, still airing is "Man Vs. Wild", which stars former UK Secret Service Forces member Bear Grylls, who managed to climb Mount Everest at 23.
"Man Vs. Wild" episodes see Grylls and the production team (including cameramen) into a remote location and the mission is to survive until he can be lifted out of the area. In the meantime, the host details to the camera all of his tips as to how to survive (find food, shelter, withstand the temps, etc) in the region.
The series has had quite a bit of controversy over the years, given the fact that Grylls does have a crew with him during filming (and there are some reports that Grylls spent the night in hotels or in other accomodations instead of sleeping out in the wild.) There are aspects of the series that seem a bit much, such as the fact that, while Grylls may be athletic, he often moves with an intensity that would suggest he doesn't need to conserve energy.
Still, while the show may not be as authentic as one may have been lead to believe, the series does at least provide useful survival tips to those who find themselves in the wilderness frequently. Whether or not Grylls gets help from his production crew, the adventurer does certainly venture into some extreme climates, such as the "Siberia" episode, where eyelids can freeze shut and anything metal will stick if touched (Grylls offers this tip if this happens: pee on it.) Grylls also seems to be able to eat just about anything, which is the focus of the episode "Bear Eats", which is sort of a "best of" of the most disgusting things the host has eaten in episodes.
As for the differences between "Survivorman" and "Man Vs. Wild", there's something to the more simple approach of "Survivorman" that still holds a greater appeal: Stroud's relatively simple camera set-ups (Stroud filmed the series himself with no crew, carrying 50 pounds of camera gear while trying to survive for a week) often lead to unexpectedly gorgeous footage, while the slicker look of "Man Vs. Wild" actually manages to take away from the feeling of reality. Stroud's subtle humor and low-key attitude also remained engaging, especially as Stroud attempted a survival technique (which didn't always work the first time.) The tranquil nature of "Survivorman" certainly also contrasts with the almost manic energy of Grylls.
Although I still prefer "Survivorman", the entertaining "Man vs. Wild" does venture into some incredible regions of the world in order for Grylls to teach viewers how to cope and survive in incredibly difficult conditions.
16. 3- 1 9 Nov 07 Sahara
17. 3- 2 17 Nov 07 Desert Survivor
18. 3- 3 23 Nov 07 Panama
19. 3- 4 30 Nov 07 Jungle
20. 3- 5 7 Dec 07 Andes Adventure
21. 3- 6 14 Dec 07 Patagonia
22. 3- 7 21 Dec 07 Bear Eats
23. 4- 1 2 May 08 Zambia
24. 4- 2 9 May 08 Namibia
25. 4- 3 16 May 08 Jungle Swamp
26. 4- 4 23 May 08 Castaway
27. 4- 5 30 May 08 Siberia
28. 4- 6 6 Jun 08 Land of Ice
VIDEO: Image Entertainment presents these episodes in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. The picture quality is terrific, as sharpness and detail remain above-average in all scenes aside from a few dimly-lit ones. While a few instances of slight pixelation were noticed, the presentation was otherwise smooth and clean, with no edge enhancement or other faults. Colors remained natural and seemed spot-on, with no smearing or other concerns.
SOUND: A crisp, clear stereo soundtrack offers well-recorded, clean-sounding dialogue and background ambience.
EXTRAS: The only extra is an episode that follows Bear and his friend as they attempt to build these helicopter-pack things that will allow them to fly above Mount Everest. This is a pretty remarkable documentary that does a great job giving an overview of the ambitious project.
Final Thoughts: Although I still prefer "Survivorman", the entertaining "Man vs. Wild" does venture into some incredible regions of the world in order for Grylls to teach viewers how to cope and survive in incredibly difficult conditions.