Man: 13, Wild: 0

Bear Grylls

Somehow we got hooked on the Discovery Channel show Man vs. Wild, where former UK special forces soldier Bear Grylls parachutes into some god-forsaken landscape with just a knife and a windbreaker, and demonstrates how to survive for several days and find civilization again. Along the way, he ingests unspeakable things and gets himself in more trouble than needed – knowingly jumping breast-deep into quick sand, for example – ostensibly to instruct us on how to get out.

It's a little hard to explain my fascination. I can tell just from the adverts that I'm not the expected target audience. But I think it stimulates some deep-seated survival instinct that we all must have. (And if this effete urbanite has any interest in survival under such conditions, then it must be innate.)

I sense a certain connection to another of my unlikely interests: dystopian literature and film. I am fascinated by the various ways healthy societies collapse, and what it takes to navigate the new world order. Bear's adventures end the moment he finds a paved road, but I'm much more interested in what would happen when there's no reasonable civilization to return to. If you can never again be certain of getting your next meal from a supermarket or restaurant, what then? How to organize a new society, and possibly a resistance, whilst surviving in the jungle?

Perhaps these questions are beyond the scope of the show, and the only question needed to explain our fascination is this: When will the Etonian hottie take off his shirt?

There's also a sense in which I'm waiting for him to fail. Just once, one of his ballsy maneuvers should land him in enough trouble that he needs an airlift. For the sake of realism, of course, not Schadenfreude…

©20022015 Christopher League