Survival expert Bear Grylls expects the contestants on his new NBC reality adventure series “The Island” to be more prepared than they would have been had the show debuted a decade ago. The 14 players — who are going to be dropped on a deserted island for a month — have had the opportunity to see Grylls fend for himself in the wild through numerous survival series.
“I hope they have learned something from my shows and that encouraged them to work on their survival skills,” Grylls says. “But, ‘The Island’ is unique. We have done it all over the world and it sparks something in people to wonder if they could do it if the (expletive deleted) hit the fan.”
The new NBC show, based on a British series of the same name, will not be like other survivor programs. There are no prizes, eliminations, winners or camera crews. The entire series was filmed by the participants and edited into six episodes.
All they will have are the clothes they are wearing and a minimal amount of survival tools. They must hunt for food, find a water source, erect shelter, build community and try to survive using only their strength, determination and know-how. Grylls promises the island has everything the men need to survive. It’s just a matter of figuring out what is available.
He points out that the participants have to concentrate on finding water, food and shelter. They also need to start a fire.
Grylls didn’t want to fill the show with survival experts. He wants to show what happens when everyday people are pushed to survival extremes. Participants include a stay-at-home dad, trauma surgeon, firefighter and criminal defense attorney.
“This experiment reveals, in a shocking way, whether modern man, when pushed, can still summon all the resolve, ingenuity and strength that traditionally made a man’s man — or whether our society’s cushioning has meant we have lost those hard-earned skills of our ancestors,” Grylls says. “This is the raw, unfiltered and uncensored story of 14 men, as told exclusively by them.
“They will have to learn to work together through trial an error. That’s why there is more tension in this show. It’s quite showing what happens. A real ‘Lord of the Flies’ situation.”
The most difficult part of the series for Grylls was sitting on his hands while he watched what was unfolding through the daily footage. In his past series, Grylls has always been the one in front of the camera building shelter, starting fires and drinking his own urine.
In the British series, and now with the American version, Grylls has seen how hard it is to predict which participants will shine because things change dramatically in a month. One thing has become clear: The men with the biggest fires inside them to succeed are the ones who tend to do the best.
“It’s not about skills and knowledge. It’s about kindness, humility, resourcefulness. The people who become hero can not be called at the start. That’s because the island is the ultimate equalizer,” Grylls says.
With this version it’s an all-male lineup. There is a strong chance there will be an all-female versions — as was done in England — if this first round goes well in the ratings.
“The Island” is one of two series featuring Grylls on NBC this summer. A second season of “Running Wild With Bear Grylls” will debut Monday, July 13. He will again go into wild locations with celebrity travelers. Joining him this year are: Kate Winslet, Kate Hudson, Drew Brees, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Ed Helms, Michelle Rodriguez, James Marsden and Michael B. Jordan.
Grylls says being dropped into uncharted territory and tackling the wilderness head-on can be both daunting and draining, but it is also empowering. That’s what he calls the beating heart of “Running Wild.”
Whether he’s dealing with 14 participants on an island or traveling through the Colorado Rocky Mountains with a celebrity, there’s one place on Earth that remains the favorite for him.
“It’s home,” he says. “I have spent a lifetime traveling, but I always like when I get back home.”
“The Island,” 10 p.m. Monday, May 25, KSEE (Channel 24.1)
“Running Wild with Bear Grylls,” 10 p.m. Monday, July 13, KSEE (Channel 24.1)