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No Food. No Shelter. No Fresh Water. No Camera Crew.
Two Discs with Nine Episodes Featuring Survivorman Les Stroud
Reviewed by Thomas J. Elpel
Survivorman is the Science Channel's popular wilderness survival show featuring Canadian Survivorman Les Stroud. In each episode Stroud is dropped off in a wilderness survival scenario out in the middle of nowhere, pretty much anywhere in the world--in jungles, deserts, swamps, the arctic, the boreal forest, canyonlands, the mountains, and even out at sea. With very little gear other than some decent clothes, a multi-tool, and possibly a snackbar, Stroud has to survive for seven days and hopefully find his own way back to civilization before his backup crew comes looking for him. Aside from that he does have fifty+ pounds of camera gear to pack around and film the experience.
Watching Survivorman is mostly about watching Les Stroud suffer miserably in self-inflicted survival scenarios, existing without much in the way of warmth, sleep, food, or water for seven days at a stretch. Being familiar with self-inflicted survival situations myself, I have to give Stroud two-thumbs up for his ability to persevere through episode after episode. Wilderness survival under these conditions is a challenge even if everything goes right, which is unreasonable to expect, and in Survivorman it seems like things almost never turn out the way he hopes they will. It is great for the entertainment value alone. Stroud must eat like a grizzly bear between episodes.
I don't intend to knock down what Les Stroud has done, or to imply that he doesn't know his survival skills. The challenges he faces are huge, and his performance is largely realistic, although occassionally a bit over-dramatized. It is easy to sit in the armchair and pick out the flaws in his skills and say what I might have done differently, and I like to think that in some episodes I might have fared better, though I definitely would have fared worse in others. I also know that it can be a chore just to get up off the ground when you are physically wasted without food or sleep, and yet Stroud not only perseveres, he manages to record it all on tape--which I know from experience, makes everything take at least twice as long.
Survivorman bears some resemblance to our own Art of Nothing Wilderness Survival Video Series, in that Stroud goes to a different place each time and uses different skills to meet the same basic needs for shelter, fire, water, and food. Survivorman has less emphasis on teaching skills, but there is definitely something to learn in every movie. We look forward to every new episode that comes out. Survivorman Season One includes two DVD discs with a total of nine episodes, plus a special Behind the Scenes look at Survivorman. More than seven hours of video altogether. 2005.
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