Judge Kent Dixon once ate a stale peanut butter and banana sandwich wearing only his underwear. Does that count?
Our reviews of Man Vs. Wild: Season 3 (published August 21st, 2009), Man Vs. Wild: Season 4 (published May 4th, 2010), Man Vs. Wild: Season 5 (published August 6th, 2011), and Man vs. Wild: Top 25 Man Moments (published April 29th, 2012) are also available.
It's Bear's world. Wanna play?
Reality TV has had many incarnations since Survivor launched the genre in 2000. Each subsequent show has introduced a relatively new take on the concept, but they all boil down to essentially the same thing…seemingly ordinary people, dropped into extraordinary circumstances. At the beginning the concept was fresh, but in the past few years, at least for me, reality TV has become old, predictable, and decidedly anchored in fantasy and formula. All the concepts involve similar takes on the following: voting, challenges, or tasks, and friction between strangers that usually erupts into good old ratings-boosting conflict.
Debuting on the Discovery Channel in 2006, Born Survivor or Man Vs. Wild, as it is known to international audiences, brought something new to the table with its hybrid of nature documentary and reality TV. For the unfamiliar, the series focuses on Edward "Bear" Grylls, a former British Special Forces soldier and adventurer, as he deliberately drops himself into some of the most inhospitable places in the world to teach viewers how to survive and get themselves back to the comfort of their living room. On the most basic level, the show works, with Grylls acting as guide, host, and narrator in each episode as he and his camera crew treat viewers to some truly awesome environments and landscapes. One of the other notable features of the show is the often outrageous and disgusting extents Grylls will go to as he demonstrates ways to find food (mind eating the eyeball of a yak?) or quench thirst (urine is a liquid after all, isn't it?).
Shortly after the first season, a flurry of media coverage pointed to the show's supposedly deliberate intentions to mislead the audience into thinking that situations that had clearly been staged in advance were actually true to life. Grylls was even interviewed by David Letterman at one point, and was grilled (sorry!) by the host who brought up situations where Grylls may have actually slept in a warm hotel with his crew, rather than actually spending a sleepless night outdoors as was depicted on the show. Grylls and the show's creators have since made it clear that some of the situations require advanced preparation and it was never their intent to mislead or confuse viewers. Whether they were just caught with their hands in the cookie jar or not remains a secret, but they have now included clear disclaimers at the beginning of each episode to let viewers know that some situations may have been staged and the usual other stuff about kids not trying things at home.
All 13 episodes of the show's second season are included with Man Vs. Wild: Season 2, spread over three discs as follows:
• Desert Survivor
• Jungle Survivor
• Bear Eats
• Land of Ice
• Jungle Swamp
The episodes are presented in 1.78:1 anamorphically enhanced widescreen and the visual presentation is actually pretty solid. The source material was clean, there's no sign of any damage or flaws of any kind, and the image remains consistently sharp throughout. Much of the show's appeal lies in the locations and environments, and the colors are sharp and distinct. While not overly dynamic, the audio presentation does its job nicely and creates some decent ambient effects with environmental noises and music from time to time throughout the episodes.
There are no extra features beyond a bonus episode called "Bear's Mission Everest." The youngest British climber to complete a summit and descent of Mount Everest in 1993 at age 23, Grylls returns with his close friend Gilo Cardozo, as they attempt a dangerous feat: flying a powered paraglider higher than Everest. I suppose you could also call the 5X7 photo insert of Grylls looking appropriately adventurous an extra feature of some kind, but not really for the purposes of this review.
Naysayers aside, Man Vs. Wild must have a healthy following around the world, as the show is still in production with no signs of slowing down. If you've grown tired of the traditional reality TV format, give Man Vs. Wild: Season 2 a try. You may never have eaten a spider or drunk your own urine, but now you can at least watch some other guy do it!
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Discovery Channel
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