For those of you who are as clueless as I was, Survivorman follows a survival expert named Les Stroud on his exploits. Stroud brings his own camera equipment and records himself making survival decisions. In Man vs. Wild, a former officer in the British Special Forces named Bear Grylls is followed by a camera crew as he "survives" in the wilderness.
Les Stroud knows what he's doing. He masterfully builds shelters, hunts, forages, and uses good mountain sense. Bear Grylls does the most sensational things -- many of which would get you killed in a real survival situation -- in order to raise the ratings of his innane show.
There are a few great examples of Grylls and his lack of mountain sense. In one show he swings on a vine over a sink hole with no idea whether or not the vine will hold. In another he says it's minus twenty degrees as he jumps in the water...clearly it wasn't or he would have died. And in another he makes a toboggan to slide down a steep hill with cliffs on either side when he could have just walked. This is also the guy who eats snakes, frogs and a variety of other animals without killing or cooking them. It's all about sensationalism.
It appears that Bear actually enjoys a little luxury when he's supposed to be in the wild. Numerous reports have come out about this so-called outdoor hardman, which indicate that he is not quite so hard. Indeed, there are a list of grievances against the television star. That which tops the list is the use of a hotel. Yep, his highly honed survival instincts have allegedly brought him to a shower and a warm bed on more than one occasion when it appears to the television audience that he is spending the night in the wilderness.
ABC News published the following on some of the other television illusions from Man vs. Wild:
Among the Grylls grievances is an episode supposedly set on a deserted island (actually Hawaii) that shows him building a raft, which was actually constructed and then disassembled by show consultants so that the host could easily put it together.
And though Grylls claims to be a horse wrangler, another charge maintains that the wild horses Grylls happened upon in the Sierra Nevada were not so wild, and were in fact from a trekking station.
It's clear that Stroud doesn't have the ability to get to a hotel or a motel to take a break. Instead he does what he says he does; he uses a variety of time-tested survival techniques to stay alive. This guy provides valuable information for the wilderness traveler that could potentially be used in a a number of environments.
Following is a great example that some fan of Survivorman posted on the internet about the difference between the two shows. Note the sensationalism of Man vs. Wild. And also note that Bear is an idiot.
Survivorman Vs. Bear Grylls - Click here for funny video clips
Stroud and Grylls have both attained lucrative advertising contracts. These alone provide some insight into who actually respects these individuals. SPOT locators have hired Stroud to be their spokesman and Trail Mix Cereal hired Grylls be theirs for a ludicrous commercial. SPOT is somewhat respected by outdoors people for the creation of their backcountry emergency locators. Trail Mix Cereal is cereal. I don't think anybody really respects cereal.
Ultimately SPOT vs. the cereal is a great metaphor for the substance of each show's quality. Stroud knows what he's doing and the techniques he teaches are educational and interesting. Grylls is a complete doof who doesn't really do anything that is worth anything.
--Jason D. Martin