LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - First there was Santa
Claus. Then came the Tooth Fairy. And just when you thought no
one could fool you into believing in mythical figures again,
along comes Bear Grylls.
Grylls is the star of "Man vs. Wild," an increasingly
popular series on Discovery Channel that recently concluded its
second season. Each episode he parachutes into a different
uninhabited territory without a map or much else in the way of
camping equipment and spends several days trying to find his
way back to civilization.
But this British adventurer is now the subject of an
investigation by U.K.'s Channel 4, which already has confirmed
that Grylls checked into motels on a few occasions when he was
depicted on TV having slept under the stars. Other allegations
have been made suggesting that the crew that records Grylls in
action isn't as hands-off as it might appear to viewers.
Knowing what we now know, it will be a challenge to watch
"Wild" with the same zeal again. Naive as it now seems, viewers
bought the notion that Grylls really was roughing it. If he cut
corners here or there, what's to stop fans from doubting every
facet of the show?
Discovery has made vague allusions to moving forward with
the series, but repackaged with greater "transparency." What
exactly that means will be an interesting question for the
network, which hasn't had a headache like this since Steve
Irwin decided to dangle his own infant child within the reach
of a hungry crocodile.
If Grylls thought the barren landscape of the Outback was a
challenge, wait until he faces the ultimate endurance contest:
celebrity notoriety. With a handsome face and endearing accent
that makes him a dead ringer for Christian Bale, Grylls has
more than star quality; he exudes integrity. There was an
effortlessness to his appeal, he was charming without being a
Perhaps the appeal of this series has always been that its
verite style reverses a subtle untold effect of shows such as
"Survivor" and "Lost." The way they depict average Joes living
off the land with relative ease has made the specter of being
stranded in the wilderness not as scary as it once was. Heck,
even Gilligan managed to subsist on coconuts and bamboo.
But "Wild" restored a sense of realism to being marooned
and sold us on the fantasy that we could learn the actual
skills for survival.
Truth be told, though, "Wild" isn't so much 21st century
"Gilligan's Island" as it is a hybrid of "McGyver" and
"Jackass." Grylls has a knack for improvising solutions to
dangerous predicaments and isn't above grossing out everyone in
Who can forget the time Grylls, burning up in the heat of
the Moab desert, urinated on his own T-shirt, which he then
wrapped around his head to cool his soaring body temperature.
Or the time he hungrily bit the heads off maggots he found in a
frozen animal carcass crushed by an avalanche, cheerfully
explaining they were a good source of nutrition?
For all its self-professed realism, "Man" always required
some suspension of disbelief. Grylls often commented on the
painful loneliness of being alone in the wild, but unless his
camera crew was staffed by bears, he did have some company out
In retrospect, Grylls' preternatural unflappability in even
the most dire of circumstances always seemed a bit too good to
be true. In one episode, he made an interminable slog through
hip-deep snow drifts in the French Alps. Braving the frigid
conditions, his frustration was evident only in the following
comment: "I'd really murder for a cup of tea."
For all we know now, perhaps he was sipping English
Breakfast on fine china between takes.