In Sweden commercial channel TV4 started new survival program Det största äventyret (The biggest adventure) in January 2014, weekly on Saturday prime time. It’s an extreme survival for 8 professional sports (wo)men, e.g. Olympic champions, who are dropped by small airplanes, blinded. When they arrive at an ‘end of the world’-location like Alaska or the Mexican jungle, the time goes in. In 2 competing teams the champions must find the way back to the habited world, as soon as possible but without a map, a compass and food. The teams only have some water and one member carries a backpack for radio-contact with the presenter. There also is a local guide to give advice. The elapsed time counts on screen. The first team that arrives in the camp and can make radio-contact with the presenter is the winner, which means that all members may proceed to the next race. The losing team must decide on the basis of a survival challenge who must leave the program, until the best survivalist wins the competition. It’s handball prof Magnus Wislander who is the best survivalist by winning the final challenge of ‘reading nature time’.
Hopefully the Swedish sports champions learned something in advance from professional survival experts like Ray Mears (BBC) and Bear Grylls (Discovery Channel). Both experts showed viewers how to survive in nature. Grylls was dropped too in harsh areas in tv-programs Ultimate Survival and Worst Case Scenario (Discovery) with just water, a knife and a fire stone. He demonstrated how to use surviving techniques, such as drink water from condensation from plastic sheets in the sun. Grylls – and Mears too – showed how edible plants and animals look like and how to prepare them. In Grylls’ Wild weekend the expert is joined by a celebrity to learn how to survive. With female comedian Miranda Hart he survived a weekend in the snowy Swiss Alps.
It seems the Swedish format is a spin-off of the American 72 Hours, broadcasted on TNT in June 2013. In each episode of this extreme survival program 3 competing teams of strangers (no ex-perts or professionals) were dropped in wilderness with only one bottle of water and a GPS tracking device. The teams must travel through dangerous areas to find a hidden briefcase, with a cash prize of $100,000. It seems that the program title is chosen not by coincidence: ‘the first 72 hours following any disaster are the most critical’, found on many websites that sell so-called ‘72 Hours survival kits’.
Gradually survival on television became more professional with the participation of tough athletes and experts. But this will not mean the end of celebrity participation in real life survival formats like the American Expedition Robinson and Survivor or the Scandinavian 69 Grader Nord. A new series of the Dutch version Expeditie Poolcirkel with celebrities will start March 20 (RTL5).
Agnes Dijker / Twitter: agnesdijker / LinkedIn: Agnes Dijker