By Julia Matter
You vs. Wild is an interactive reality television show where the viewer gets to choose what path and obstacles survivalist Bear Grylls has to face. Launched on April 10th, the show is available to stream on Netflix. It has an 89% rating on rotten tomatoes and is most likely drawing its large audience due to the famous personal Bear Grylls best known for his Discovery Channel series Man vs. Wild. You vs. Wild is a fresh take on his former show as you the viewer get to choose the tools, paths, and obstacles on his mission.
I was hesitant at first to watch this show as it didn’t really seem like my type of program. However one night as I scrolled through Netflix looking for the next thing to watch, I was startled when a man repelled down in the cover photo and pointed at me. Upon seeing the episodes are only approximately 15-26 minutes, I figured I could spare the time to try it out. The first episode deals with Bear in the Jungle looking for a missing doctor on her way to deliver life saving medicine to a secluded village. Upon completing the mission and saving the doctor it occurred to me to question
how much of this show is real. Surely they wouldn’t send in a reality t.v. crew if someone’s life was truly in danger. They would send trained rescuers, not reality star Bear Grylls. Not to mention it would take more than double the time to complete the mission because with every choice you pick, he has to film both. For example in episode two Bear needs to reach the top of a cliff. You have two options, have him free climb the side of the cliff, or climb and dangling rope that has been there for who knows how long. My choice was the rock climb, I figure he could rely on his skills rather then the rope that has been in the elements. However the cliff proves too slippery to climb and he has to go back to the other choice, the rope. The rope turns out to be the correct way to get Bear to the end of his mission. However if this was a real rescue mission there is no way would they be entertaining my choices.
I did some digging and and found while the situations are staged, Bear Grylls really is sent on a mission to find these people. While their lives aren’t in danger, he still doesn’t know where they are and his task is to track them down. Now I would much prefer this then someone’s life actually being in my hands when he asks me to choose the grappling hook or the slingshot to put in his bag as his last item. However it does take away from the the reality portion of the show. Although I’m sure viewers were happy to hear that the Saint Bernard wasn’t actually trapped in the Swiss Alps for 48 hours as the situation was presented in episode three.
But I guess my question is, does You vs. Wild really count as reality television then? I would have to say yes. While it may not be our typical format of television, the tasks we see Bear Grylls accomplish he actually does. Such as Tarzan swinging from the vines or going face to face with a crocodile in episode one. It definitely doesn’t make that grub he ate any less realistic.
In a way, while the reality and interactiveness of the show conflict, they also bring up a good point. Reality television manipulates us constantly, we are meant to believe that everything we are seeing is real. From the reactions on the Bachelor, to the placement of the idols on Survivor to the reason someone was eliminated from Project Runway. We are setup to believe everything they are telling us is true, and as fans of the show we eat it up. But when you take a step back you realize, the reactions while real were not to that comment, the idol was placed somewhere where they knew that person would find it, or they kept that designer because they knew they would cause drama on the next episode. All of the shows smudge the truth, and what I have to say about You vs Wild is, at least they aren’t trying to hide it from you. In my opinion the show is still reality tv, but as Bear would say, “it’s your choice, you decide.”