Blink and you might have missed it. Last night, Discovery Channel quietly aired four episodes of Man vs. Wild, the "survival" show that has been absent on the network since it fell into some controversy in late July.
For those not familiar with "Grylls-gate," it was discovered by the British TV station Channel 4 that the show was a little less… real… than viewers had been made to believe. Specifically, survival experts assisted Grylls during his treks, and the crew stayed at hotels some nights, not in the homemade campsites that Bear built. The controversy was a black eye for Discovery, as the show had been a runaway hit, and turned Bear Grylls into an instant worldwide star. As a result of the incident, Discovery promised to ensure that viewers would be fully informed when they re-aired the episodes. And then there was nothing.
Bear "surviving" in the Everglades.
The show had disappeared from the network, a staple on the weekends as a rerun, the show had vanished. Even its "fan page" on Disovery.com had been pulled off the list on the front page of the site and relegated to the doldrums of Discovery.com.
Dumping unaired shows on one night is not unusual of networks looking to burn off programming (See The Drew Carey Show and The Black Donnelly’s), but this was different. The shows that aired on Discovery last night were not the ones I saw just a few months ago. No, they were the "re-cut" episodes, meant to ensure that the viewer had a better understanding of what was really going down.
And what were the changes you ask? Well for starters, there was a text disclaimer at the beginning of the show and leading in from commercial breaks, a disclaimer that said in part: "on some occasions situations are presented to Bear so he can demonstrate survival techniques." Ah, so that would probably include the horse incident.
In addition, at the beginning of the show, When Bear used to say that the camera crew would follow him, but would not assist unless he was in grave danger, a new voiceover says: "A camera crew will be following me, in addition I’ll be receiving some help if needed from local experts along the way." Mmm hmm, that would include his famous raft experience.
Some of the more memorable scenes have been watered down by the voiceovers… more real, but less exciting. When building a campsite from "scratch" Bear says in a new voiceover: "I’m not staying the night, but this would be a good place to make camp." Gee, thanks Bear! At another campsite he says: "this process takes time, so I will get some help from the crew." In another scene where he “catches” a rabbit in a homemade trap, he says "My trap didn’t catch anything overnight, but I’ve been brought a rabbit to tell you what to do if you’re luckier than me." What happened to the Bear I knew and loved? The guy who knew how to build a Seminole hut from twigs and leaves he found along the way? Oh, that’s right, it was fake.
Probably the most noticeable change is the ending of the shows. Previously, Bear would “stumble” upon a road, his mood would cheer up and he would say something to the effect of “we did it!” and the show would end with him hitching a ride. Now, in a voiceover, Bear says “X is really beautiful, but I can see how people would get lost, I have had quite an adventure, and now hopefully you would know how to survive.” Then the show ends. How exciting.
Just how fake was Man vs. Wild? It wasn’t always easy to tell, but check out the video below to get a sense of where they were at.