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Bear Grylls Reflects on Mind-Blowing Moments from His First TV Show

Bear Grylls has starred in a lot of TV shows. He was in seven seasons of Man vs. Wild, and his other shows over the years have included Escape from Hell, The Island with Bear Grylls, and his recent show I Survived Bear Grylls, which he co-hosted with Jordan Conley.

In the latest—eighth—season of Running Wild, which is currently showing on National Geographic, Bear is taking A-list celebrities like Bradley Cooper, Rita Ora, and Benedict Cumberbatch into various areas of inhospitable terrain to learn survival skills.

But the series that Bear looks back on is Man vs. Wild, the first big TV show that Bear made and, arguably, what made him a star, reaching an estimated 1.2 billion viewers during the years that it ran.

Bear says that he’s often asked about the show and the adventures that he had on it. He also says that he didn’t fully appreciate at the time the power that it had on his career.

Bear’s Confession About Man Vs. Wild

“There’s no doubt that Man vs. Wild was the door opener to so much else that has happened since. To have been given a chance to do primetime US television on a global network for a channel with the reach of Discovery was a huge privilege,” writes Bear in his autobiography, Never Give Up.

Bear says that many British actors (as with musicians, writers, and other people in the entertainment industry) want to “break America”, but that it is a difficult road.

He says he was fortunate to get a break in the U.S.–but he confesses that didn’t appreciate what a big opportunity it was at the time.

“I was always more excited about doing Channel 4 in the UK than some distant American Station – mainly because my mum would see it. I was so naïve,” he says in the book.

Filming Adventures

Bear actually said no to British TV producer Rob MacIver and Diverse Productions three times. He thought TV wasn’t for him, so he turned it down. However, Rob believed in him and kept asking.

“To this day he still says that I was rough and clueless, but that he knew that if we could just film some adventures together, and if they were as wild and fun as we reckoned they could be, then American audiences would love it,” says Bear in Never Give Up.

The first version of the series was called Ultimate Survival and the first Man vs. Wild series followed shortly after.

Bear says that being promoted so heavily year after year on primetime American TV was the key to a lot of things that happened from then onwards in his life.

The Mind-Blowing Moments

Image by Patricia Hamilton

“In making that show we had some truly mind-blowing moments that will stay with me forever,” Bear says.

He recalls the enema that he gave himself while on a raft that he had made off a Pacific desert island. He also remembers how a log snapped under him while he was crossing a 100-foot-wide ravine in Alaska.

He was bitten by a pit viper in the jungle in Borneo, was in alligator-infested swamps in Alabama, and was in a lagoon of saltwater crocodiles in Australia. He was also buried in an avalanche and injured in a rockfall.

What Else Does He Remember?

“Perhaps the improvised wetsuit I made from a rotting seal carcass, or the urine-

drinking, feces-munching, porcupine-hunting, tarantula-chewing, river rapids-

running, mountain-climbing, free-falling, water-landing moments . . . of which there were so many,” he says.

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