Some of you may know but for those who don’t ‘Survivorman’ is one of my favorite shows. Not just on TV now, but of all time. If you’ve never heard of it, let me give you a rundown:
Les Stroud is the host and star of the show, which is of the nature survival variety. His show appeared long before Man Vs Wild came on Discovery and in my opinion is the only worthwhile Survival show besides Ray Mears’s specials. ‘Man vs. Wild’ is more of side show of natural survival techniques. We watch as Bear Grylls leaps off chasms and stuffs his mouth full of disgusting creatures. Honest to God there was an episode where he killed a snake, skinned it, turned the skin into a canteen, pissed in it, and then drank it directly from the snake-skin canteen. ‘Man vs. Wild’ also contains staged scenarios and Grylls and his camera crew normally sleep in nearby hotels instead of weathering the elements. While I will admit some of the things he does are pretty incredible, they are also very lousy survival advice. Half of the things Bear shows on his venue would most likely get a normal person killed, sick, or worse off than your original situation. His show is a shock value entertainment program and should be seen as anything more than that. If that is what you like, I do not begrudge you that, it can be an entertaining show. However, if you are looking for more than just the ‘Jackass’ of the survival world, then look no further than ‘Survivorman’.
What makes ‘Survivorman’ wonderful is in its beauty and simplicity. Stroud goes out to a remote location and after being dropped off by his crew, he is left completely alone in the wilderness for 7 days (and with the new season he is out for 10). Stroud films, narrates, and teaches all on his own during this show. He does his show with a true sense of realism not spectacle. He shows you what you can do in a survival situation, how to keep a level head, and provides actual survival facts and lessons that anyone could apply to their situation. Not only is the show informative, but Stroud has a keen eye for shooting magnificent footage of these natural landscapes. He has the ability to capture the beauty but also the start reality of wilderness survival. Showing how simultaneously it can be romantic and also terrifying, exciting and full of loneliness.
Stroud also has the talent to put humor, insight, and his love of music in each hour long adventure. He doesn’t shy away from his failures, and when you do see him succeed at something (even as simple as catching his dinner) you can see and feel the sincere joy in his success. The show isn’t set at lightning-fast ‘EXTREME’ pace, it is reflective and perfectly timed, which in my opinion fully captures exactly what Stroud sets out to do. To teach survival and to show a genuine appreciation for the natural world.
‘Survivorman’ ran for 3 seasons ending a few years back, however I still find myself returning to it over and over. I find a true delight in watching the show and I was quite sad when I learned he had decided to end the show. I felt as though his show was unfairly pushed to the side for the ridiculous antics of Grylls and that the Discovery Channel pushed reckless and over the top sensationalism of ‘Man vs. Wild’ in order to get higher ratings by featuring a man drinking liquid out of elephant dung in Africa (and yes, that did happen in Man vs. Wild). Add to these items the down to earth quality of Stroud. He seems like a normal guy who would be great to sit down and have a beer with while sharing some stories. His passion for what he does is unmistakable and his good nature shines through. This isn’t some persona he puts on for the camera, this is who Stroud is, and I for one appreciate that quality in a host.
It was to my excitement that I learned that Stroud was going back out once again for a few more ‘Survivorman’ specials. I’m not certain how many we will be getting, but I will be treasuring what we do get. Last night marked the triumphant return of Stroud’s adventures.
Now spending ten days alone, Stroud’s first location is to Tiburon Island in Mexico. Left with little supplies just off the coast, Stroud made his way inland. Stroud showed his skill by creating a distiller to convert the sea water into fresh water using only items he was able to scrounge off the beach and from the broken down boat he started on. We watched as he scavenged for food and ended up with a bounty of clams found at low tide. Showing the strategy of using all of what you can find, Stroud built himself a shelter and even took advantage of a recently dead squid to use as a meal (and unlike other hosts, actually took the time to cook it before shoving it down his throat). In a truly unfortunate scene we watched Stroud deal with the bad effects of eating the wrong oyster.
The return of the show felt like it hadn’t gone anywhere. The same style and format was present, and felt like reconnecting with an old friend. The beautiful landscape shots filled the quiet spots with remarkable power. The only new addition to the show is one that I found was much needed and will add to these specials that we will get.
Normally the show is one hour for one location. From start to finish you would watch Les’s struggle and adventure in a too short sixty minutes. With this new series, they are splitting these specials into two parts, which works perfectly for the format of this show. If I had any complaints about the first three seasons it would be that episodes felt a bit rushed in parts. Though we would see the journey through the seven days, some of the days would be quickly skipped through in order to fit the runtime. With breaking up these specials into 2 hour long programs, you get much more of a sense of each day’s triumphs or failures. It gives Stroud room to breathe and the journey feels even more complete than it did in the past.
If you haven’t seen the show, I highly recommend it if you are fan of the outdoors and the art of survival skills. This isn’t the Michael Bay of survival reality television; it is an honest and respectful look at nature, the wilderness, and the ups and downs of what it takes to survive. This is the Terrance Malick of survival shows and I can’t wait for part 2.