Narrated by Bear Grylls
Running time 45 minutes
Final episode date 29 November 2011
Cast Bear Grylls
Starring Bear Grylls
No. of seasons 7
First episode date 27 October 2006
Network Discovery Channel
|Also known as 'Born Survivor: Bear GryllsUltimate Survival'|
No. of episodes 66 (+10 specials) (list of episodes)
Nominations Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Cinematography For Reality Programming
Similar Survivorman, Running Wild with Bear Grylls, Man - Woman - Wild, Worst‑Case Scenario, Get Out Alive with Bear Grylls
Man vs. Wild, also called Born Survivor: Bear Grylls, Ultimate Survival, Survival Game, Real Survival Hero or colloquially as simply Bear Grylls in the United Kingdom, is a survival television series hosted by Bear Grylls on the Discovery Channel. In the United Kingdom, the series was originally shown on Channel 4, but later series were broadcast on Discovery Channel UK. The series was produced by British television production company Diverse Bristol. The show was first broadcast on 10 November 2006 after airing a pilot episode titled "The Rockies" on 10 March 2006.
In a special first aired on 2 June 2009, Will Ferrell joined Grylls on a survival trip to Northern Sweden. Grylls also said he has been approached about doing a Man vs. Wild urban disaster 3-D feature film, an idea he said he would "really like to do." Ben Stiller also signed on for an episode later in the year. Grylls signed on to showcase urban survival techniques in a new Discovery show called Worst-Case Scenario, which premiered on 5 May 2010 on the network. In March 2012, Discovery Channel terminated its contract with Grylls due to contract disputes, effectively cancelling the series.
The general format of each episode is the premise that Grylls is left stranded in a region with his film crew. The episode documents his efforts to survive and find a way back to civilization, usually requiring an overnight shelter of some kind. Mostly there are wild terrains – jungles, forests or similar non-urban areas. But in special episodes, like that in Shipyard Gdynia, there are industry areas located in cities. Grylls also tells about successful and failed survivals in the particular area which he is in.
Each episode takes about 7–10 days to shoot. Before each show the crew does about a week of reconnaissance, followed by Grylls doing a flyover of the terrain. Grylls then undergoes two days of intensive survival briefings. "I spend two days on location prior to dropping in – I go through all the safety and comms briefing as well as being briefed on local conditions, and flora and fauna by local rangers and a local bushcraft expert." He is followed on the program by a cameraman and a sound engineer. Directors oversee location filming and the final edit of each program. Season One directors included Dominic Stobart, Scott Tankard and Mark Westcott. Grylls said, "I suppose to bear in mind that this is a worst-case scenario show, and therefore, of course things have to be planned. Otherwise, it would just be me in the wild and nothing happening, you know, 'cause textbook survival says you land, you get yourself comfortable, you wait for rescue, you don't do anything. It would be a very boring show. The show is how to deal if you fall into quick sand, if you get attacked by an alligator, if you have to make a raft. I get a really good briefing before we go. I know there's a big river there, there's gonna be a great cliff climb there, there's loads of snakes in those rocks, watch out for an alligator. So I do have a good idea of 80 percent of what's gonna happen." Furthermore, contrary to onscreen presentation, his movements are rarely from Point A to Point B: "We plan it, if we're doing different locations, sometimes we'll have to do a whole crew move and get a helicopter. Again, we're talking huge distances sometimes. So we'll use helis when we have to. They'll go out three weeks ahead of me, and go, "That bit's no good. Those rapids we thought are gonna be good are boring, but down there, it's great." In April 2008, Grylls and Discovery released a book that includes survival tips from the TV show. In June 2009, Grylls had a special co-host, actor Will Ferrell in episode 41. This season 5 premiere episode was called Men vs. Wild.
In July 2011, Grylls had a special co-host, actor Jake Gyllenhaal in the season 7 premiere of the show on the Discovery Channel; they travelled through Iceland. In the UK, this episode was aired as a special in 2014, under the Bear's Wild Weekend banner.
In March 2012, Discovery Channel terminated its contract with Grylls due to contract disputes.
The show is called Man vs Wild in the USA, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and India. The show does, however, go by different names in other parts of the world. In the United Kingdom, where the show originates, it is called Born Survivor: Bear Grylls and is broadcast on the Discovery Channel. It is also known as Ultimate Survival in other countries. Grylls' books have also been published under the Born Survivor name in the UK. These variations run basically the same format as Man vs Wild however there are some differences between them. The opening animation/narrative is also different as Grylls introduces the show with "Hello and welcome to Born Survivor, I'm Bear Grylls and I'm in England where I'm going to show you what it takes to get out alive". There are also a few differences in what he does during the shows however the names of the episodes are generally the same. The release date or new episodes also varies slightly as they cannot normally be arranged to show at exactly the same time due to schedules and time differences.
In 2006, a Born Survivor crew member admitted that some scenes in episodes were misleading, indicating to viewers that Grylls was stranded in the wild alone when he was not. The issue of scenes being manipulated was also raised by Mark Weinert, a U.S. survival consultant. One example he gave was of a raft allegedly being put together by team members before being taken apart so Grylls could be filmed building it. Other scenes that have been criticised include:
Show's response to criticism with changes
In response to these early criticisms, Discovery and Channel 4 aired re-edited versions of some episodes, removing elements that were too planned, with a fresh voice-over and a preceding announcement pointing out that some situations are "presented to Bear to show the viewer how to survive". However, five of the most controversial Season 1 episodes were never re-released after editing and are no longer available on DVD from Discovery. These are The Rockies, Moab Desert, Costa Rican Rain Forest, Mount Kilauea (Hawaii) and Desert Island (Hawaii).
Following criticism in the media in July 2007 about elements of the show's first season, British Channel 4 temporarily suspended the show's second season for a few weeks, promising clarification and transparency in the production and editing of the show. The channel responded to criticism of the show by pointing out that Grylls conducted all of his own stunts, many of which put him in dangerous conditions, and that the show was not a documentary, but a "how-to" guide to "basic survival techniques in extreme environments." The channel issued a statement saying that:
The programme explicitly does not claim that presenter Bear Grylls' experience is one of unaided solo survival. For example, he often directly addresses the production team, including the cameraman, making it clear he is receiving an element of back-up.
The Discovery Channel also responded to the criticism by announcing that future airings would be edited (including a disclaimer at the beginning of each episode) so as not to imply to viewers that Grylls was left alone to survive during production of the show. Since then, Grylls has stated on camera when he has received assistance in order to demonstrate survival tactics or when he is exiting the setting for a period of time due to safety concerns. Grylls also tells the cameras filming behind the scenes footage how the film crew sometimes assists him in filming certain sequences. The Discovery Channel in the UK has also edited out certain scenes of Grylls killing animals that he has captured for food. The Discovery Channel also released behind the scenes footage showing how sequences of Man Vs. Wild are filmed. In the footage, while setting up a scene, each production crew member is introduced and their role is briefly explained, including a safety consultant who served in the Royal Marines. During the scenes, Grylls tells how each crew members' role ensures his safety while he explains survival tactics. The footage includes open discussion over safety and other precautions.
On August 3, 2007, Grylls posted on his blog that the "press accusations of motels and stagings in the show that have been doing the rounds, all I can say is they don't always tell the full story, but that's life and part of being in the public eye I guess." In response to allegations of spending nights in local hotels as opposed to staying in the shelters built during filming, Grylls clarifies in an article in the December 3 issue of People magazine that:
Episodes take about ten days to tape, explains Grylls: 'The night stuff [shown on camera] is all done for real. But when I’m not filming I stay with the crew in some sort of base camp.' Episodes now clarify when Grylls gets support from his crew and when situations are staged, 'We should have done that from the start,' he says. 'The more you see, the more real it feels.'
The new shows and DVDs contain a notice stating that Grylls will receive help from the camera crew on occasion, that he will in certain situations use provided safety equipment to minimize risks, and that he will sometimes deliberately put himself in perilous situations to demonstrate survival techniques. Grylls is specifically credited as "Presenter" to highlight his role in presenting survival techniques to the viewer. In March 2012, Discovery channel terminated relationship with 'Man vs. Wild' star Bear Grylls. "Due to a continuing contractual dispute with Bear Grylls, Discovery has terminated all current productions with him," a network spokesperson told The Hollywood Reporter.