Yes, Survivor's castaways are hungry and The Amazing Race's travelers don't always sleep so well, but the challenges those contestants face pale in comparison to what is asked of the teams on Get Out Alive with Bear Grylls.
Designed to see who has what it truly takes to survive in the wild, Get Out Alive pushes its players kilometers past their breaking points through an expertly mixed cocktail of adrenaline-boosting obstacles, emotion-shattering conditions and stomach-churning "meals" (duck embryos should never constitute "food"). The combination of those elements forces the strongest to rise, the weakest to fall and viewers to stay perched on the edge of their seats. ETonline caught up with Grylls to talk about shepherding this harrowing survival experience and why this is his dream gig.
ETonline: What do you think Get Out Alive has that Survivor, The Amazing Race and their brethren, lack?
Bear Grylls: This isn't a test of who’s the fittest, the strongest, the most manipulative or the most willing to backstab. It's a character factory. I'm looking for the traits that keep people alive in survival situations, so it's as much about kindness and support and humility as it is determination and courage in facing those fears head-on. These guys are going through some proper journeys; they're hungry, they're battling the elements, they're cold, they're wet and you can't hide in those situations. You see who people really are in those moments. This is the show I've always wanted to make so I could take regular people, empower them with certain skills and see who comes out alive.
ETonline: You say that attitude is a huge factor, is that why you've kept Wilson and Robin around despite the fact other teams have to, quite literally, carry them through certain obstacles?
Grylls: Attitude is everything. Whether you're a little bit faster or slower isn't important in the wild, it's about keeping a positive attitude in those difficult moments. Can you pick yourself up and face the wild with a smile? People thought Robin and Wilson would die out there, and yes, they're slow, but they're full of positivity and that counts for so much.
ETonline: How do you think the teams are doing, four weeks in?
Grylls: Slowly these guys are getting it. They have to look after one another. That's what the wild rewards. But it's going to get much harder now. These guys are barely eating, they're hardly sleeping and as the weaker links go, I can push these journeys much more. For me, the second half of Get Out Alive is when the show really starts to resemble what people would truly go through in survival situations.
ETonline: Were there any challenges you wanted to do but couldn't for safety or legal reasons?
Grylls: There are a couple of locations coming up that I fought to get on the show. The limitation was always going to be access in bad weather. I take them to a rain forest and we have some of the worst weather I have ever seen. But we got everywhere I wanted to and did everything I wanted to do there, so this show really gave me the arena I wanted.
ETonline: Every week the teams are split into four teams -- Fire, Shelter, Food and Obstacle. If you were a contestant, which knife would you hope to pull knowing you'd have control over the most important element?
Grylls: I think fire is so critical in the wild. You can cook with it, you can make tools, you can deter a predator, you can dry your clothes and you get that element of morale that matters so much when you're stuck in the middle of nowhere. But the thing is, they're all interlocked. Unless you have shelter, fire is going to be very hard and if you have fire, but no water, you're going to die. They're all super important and that's the interesting part of it.
ETonline: You do all the eliminations on Get Out Alive, why was that important to you in shaping this series?
Grylls: No one knows as much as me about this stuff and I'm watching everything, leaping in only if they're really in danger. Since I see everything I'm in a good position to say who is doing the best. It was easy getting rid of people in the beginning because you had the luxury of choice, but now they're really going through some pain for the show and for me, so I developed a real respect for them as a result. So the eliminations are being decided by smaller and smaller margins because, the truth is, they're all pretty darn good at this stage. They're learning.
ETonline: Ultimately, how do you feel about the team who wins it all?
Grylls: There's no blueprint for heroes, so coming in I had no idea who was going to win. In the wild it's not like the movies, it's all about character and you never know who will thrive in that. In the end, the team that won, won by a very small margin, but were like a beacon of hope and positivity and looked after one another. They really deserved $500,000. They’re two incredible heroes.
Get Out Alive with Bear Grylls airs Mondays at 9 p.m. on NBC.