Man vs. Wild
Empty8 p.m.-midnight, Monday, Sept. 24
This four-hour marathon of repeat episodes from the popular but discredited Discovery Channel unscripted series is designed to restore faith in a show whose veracity has proven to be a bit, shall we say, dubious.
As detailed by The Hollywood Reporter's Andrew Wallenstein in these pages, "Man vs. Wild's" survivalist star, Bear Grylls, is confirmed to have spent nights in motels rather than outdoors facing the elements (as depicted) and received off-camera assistance in building things and catching animals that he's captured doing alone on camera. As you might have guessed, this doesn't foster confidence in a purported rough-and-tumble TV icon and, in fact, has inspired rightful charges of full-on audience deception. What we were seeing was evidently closer to "Man vs. Mild" or "Man vs. Wild Imagination."
You would think the blow to the show's credibility to be fatal, but the British-produced series instead is working to make amends by coming clean and providing a rare glimpse of full production disclosure (i.e., instead of killing a rabbit, showing how one is pulled out of a hat).
So the re-edited episodes presented Monday night came complete with a disclaimer that explained in part how Grylls and his crew "receive support when they are in potentially life-threatening situations, as required by health and safety regulations." Yikes! How utterly un-macho. Also, every piece of footage is now being vetted for accuracy or augmented with voice-overs that explain if in fact the intrepid host failed in his mission and required assistance. That happened in an episode shot in Scotland's Cairngorm Mountains in which we learn a rabbit was supplied for Grylls by his crew rather than snatched from his own trap as previously claimed.
The mea culpas and re-edits are interspersed throughout these four episodes and will continue for future rebroadcasts of previous segments. But it's already clear that the show's magic is gone. It's no longer man vs. wild but vs. his own conscience, and as Grylls already has proven he can't be trusted, the unfortunate sense is that he isn't a real survival dude -- he just plays one on TV.