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.) While the prior seasons of the series have seen Grylls remaining intense and energetic in situations where he should be conserving energy (one of my criticisms of the series, as it didn't seem realistic), thankfully he seems to have toned it down a little at this point in the series.
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. This third volume of the series offers an interesting mixture of US and foreign locations, including a particularly enjoyable episode in Ireland - while the country's pristine, quiet beauty doesn't sound like a particularly intimidating environment, but he quickly finds the rough terrain of the country's West coast difficult to travel across, coming across a large shipwreck as he walks along the coastline.
Quite different but equally rugged and fascinating is the Deep South episode, where Grylls has to travel through muddy, wet swampland - a journey that's complicated by everything from irritable animals to the stink of methane coming up from under the water. His journey eventually leads him to a pair of rather eerie ships in the middle of nowhere, tossed there likely by the force of Hurricane Katrina. Towards the end, he comes across a home in the swamp, left abandoned after it was damaged by Katrina.
Another highlight comes towards the end of the season, where Grylls drops into an island in the middle of the Dominican Republic. What looks like a tropical paradise quickly turns into a perilous situation, with spiky plants (use an agave plant leaf in your sock as a guard against the cactus plants) and a very serious storm.
Of course, as he's known to do, Grylls eats more gross things than "Bizarre Foods" host Andrew Zimmern and offers some tips for viewers, such as finding drinkable fluid in large thistle plants.
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.
• Season 5
30 5-01 Baja Desert
31 5-02 The Deep South
32 5-03 Ireland
33 5-04 South Dakota
35 5-06 Belize
36 5-07 Yukon
37 5-08 Oregon
38 5-09 Dominican Republic
39 5-10 Turkey 40 5-11 Romania
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: Not much - we get some deleted footage (worth watching, but nothing that should have ended up in the series) and a highlight reel for the series up until this point.
Final Thoughts: Although I still prefer "Survivorman", "Man Vs. Wild" tones it down a little bit this season and the results are more enjoyable. The DVD offers solid audio/video quality, but really nothing much in the way of extras. Recommended.