Summer Pilot Review: Get Out Alive with Bear Grylls

Photo courtesy of NBC.

Photo courtesy of NBC.

Why review summer pilots? Summer isn’t exactly the most respectable time for a new series to be released in television, and because of that, it tends to be filled with strange and sometimes baffling experiments. And experiments are fun to watch, because sometimes they blossom into a brilliant chemical reaction of summery entertainment and sometimes they explode and send everyone to the emergency room.

TITLE: Get Out Alive with Bear Grylls

NETWORK: NBC

WHEN TO WATCH: Mondays at 9pm/8c

Bear Grylls had a bit of a fall from the public grace when it was revealed he was a big fat phony. How appropriate that his first major return to television is a reality TV competition. (zing!)

So the premise of Get Out Alive is basically a combination of Survivor with Grylls’ original show Man vs. Wild with a bit of The Amazing Race. Ten couples are thrown into the as-unforgiving-as-legally-allowed-by-our-insurance-agents wilderness. Bear gives them tasks like bushwhacking and river fording and observes them (presumably from the comfort of a four-star hotel) in their survivability

The shenanigans are as contrived as you might expect – although the show is more honest than Man vs. Wild in that it barely keeps up the façade of being authentic, that also makes the whole thing much less dramatic. In Man vs. Wild we could pretend that Bear was at some type of risk, twirling and spinning through jungles and glaciers. But the effect is lost when Bear’s presence is limited to creepy over-the-shoulder shots of him watching the group and commenting on their schoolboy mistakes. The talking head interviews don’t help.

Reality competition shows usually base their drama on interpersonal conflict. The circumstances of Survivor are almost irrelevant; you don’t watch it because they do cool stuff, you watch it because they all fight and bicker and forge friendships and loyalties and betray each other. It’s a microcosm of human nature all in one silly, super-edited bite. The drama of Get Out Alive is based on how much you are willing to believe that the contestants are actually almost dying of hypothermia. Yeah, they yell at each other, there are cheesy storylines (the Miss Alabama/car wreck survivor, the recovering meth addict, the struggling father/son) but there’s just no kick. There’s no pop

And really, the reason why it just doesn’t work is because there is no Tribal Council. There is no spicy drama. The ultimate arbiter of the competition is the omnipotent, omnipresent Bear Grylls. He sends couples off based on whether or not he thinks they should have died if this were an actual survival situation. No alliances, no betrayals.

That’s not to say the show is worthless. It’s hilarious. In what has to be a self-aware gag, Bear approaches the group from his hidey-hole and says, “I need one member of each team to bring a water bottle… full of urine.” 

Cut to a talking head interview: “The first thing that went through my head was that I was gonna be drinking my piss the next day.”

After a commercial break and an alarming Walmart-branded survival tip, Bear Grylls comes back and fills everybody’s piss with muddy water. He gives them a challenge – build a fire, filter your piss, and drink your piss. Cue 10 minutes of people heating piss, stirring piss, and drinking piss. Again, the show dedicates about 10 minutes to piss chugging. The first line when you return from a commercial break is “WHO WILL BE THE FIRST ONE TO FINISH THEIR MUD AND URINE MIXTURE?”

I’m not going to lie, Get Out Alive is really fun to watch. The characters all have predictably sad origin stories, the challenges they must endure are creative if not a little surreal, and Bear Grylls is an entertaining host. But I can’t honestly recommend it if you want to watch for anything other than the laughs. It’s not good. It’s bad. Real bad. It is ripe for drinking games bad.

Verdict: Don’t watch it (except ironically).

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