Survival TV and reality TV aren’t as different as you think.
There are some true blue shows out there, some of which have an absolute ton of viable information in them that we can all learn from, but they have been tarnished by some fake shows bringing the entire genre down.
A real survival show brings you actionable information, and shows someone actually performing those tasks in real survival situations, not some scripted garbage.
Today, we’re going to burn through the biggest examples of fake survival TV shows, and shed some spotlight on the real heroes of survival television.
Are Any Of The Survival Shows On TV Actually Real?
Yes, some of them are real, but we had this television epidemic of reality TV shows coming out as fake (big shocker there), but it caused some channels to develop these shows with scripted material and a completely fake experience.
One of the biggest offenders here is Bear Grylls. We all know his face, we know his show, we’ve seen him on a ton of products, the list goes on and on.
But the thing is, in 2008 it was discovered that his show was mostly scripted.
I say mostly because some of the scenes were shot with them staying out all night and really trying to survive, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that they (being Bear and his team) would stay in hotels in between shots.
It would take them six days to film a show because of all the stops along the way, ruining the survival experience.
Bear Grylls might have had a ton of military training and really be as hardcore as he claims, but he faked it on his show and doesn’t showcase any integrity, which is what led to this wave of survival TV shows facing a bad rep.
One other show, which premiered in more recent years is Dual Survival. If you’ve seen this show, then it shouldn’t come as any surprise that it was a fake fest with some of the worst acting ever.
I don’t even know how that guy with the braids would survive in the wilderness after you listen to him talk for ten minutes.
It didn’t take long for survivalist forum members to start pointing out glaring production-related inconsistencies with the show, from spotting different-colored animal traps from one scene to the next, and noticing that some items were planted, not scavenged.
Some editors must have lost their jobs over this show.
But there are real shows, and I want to put the spotlight on them.
You might not be surprised, but it’s important to show them so you know the difference between real and fake survival shows.
What Are Some Real Survival Shows?
Now we get to the good stuff.
These are real shows that showcase actual survival situations. I won’t tease you anymore; let’s take a look.
Les Stroud is the real deal. He was on the air around the same time Bear was, but viewers quickly switched to Les because they knew exactly what the difference was: actual survival skills.
Les operates his own camera equipment, runs through the entire gauntlet of what he’s doing on camera so you can understand what’s happening, and has never shown any inconsistencies throughout his filming process.
It’s raw, and it’s film that’s stitched together to show a timeline of his average 7-10 day expeditions, but without crazy editing that puts him in a different light than he wants.
Les is dropped into an area that he doesn’t have experience with (some of the time), but has working mechanical knowledge of the nearby animals, plants, and environment prior to landing.
He uses his refined skill and talent for surviving to withstand the elements and the trials of his new area for the duration, and then has a rendezvous with his team where he’s usually airlifted out via helicopter, and gives a closing dialogue on everything he experienced.
If you really want to know how to survive, Les Stroud is the authority figure you should follow.
2. Marooned With Ed Stafford
All I’m saying is that I would pay a lot of money to see Les Stroud and Ed Stafford go head-to-head in a survival competition, much like we see on the show Alone.
Ed Stafford is the only known person to ever traverse the entire Amazon river.
It was originally estimated to take one calendar year, but in the end, it took Ed two-and-a-half years to actually complete this challenge.
But he did it, and he’s the only one to ever perform it, which is just a testament to how dedicated he is.
There were also two separate occasions where he survived on an island for sixty days, and one of those instances helped launch his television career.
The thing that’s great about Ed is that he talks about the mental turmoil, physical strain, and the behind-the-curtain magic on his show.
He states that he never goes into a situation unless it’s calculated (which is what we preppers do as well), and he has a lifeline if he needs it for medical evacuation or emergencies, but still does everything 100% on his own.
Yes, this show has a game-show type feeling to it, but it’s actually unscripted and true to form.
It goes like this: ten people are dropped into the wild with their clothes and cameras, and they have to survive for one-hundred days.
If they make it, they earn $1,000,000, which is basically a $10K-a-day payout if they can stick it out. These are some pretty high stakes for anyone.
One reason that the show is very believable is that nobody to date has ever been able to actually win the million dollars by surviving until the end. Seven seasons in, and nothing.
With thousands of hours of footage from all these different cameras, there’s enough to piece together all these episodes without needing to script any BS into the plot.
People make their own entertainment when they make mistakes during survival or have to tap out.
To be clear, there are winners, because nobody would go into this show unless they could win something, but nobody has lasted the one-hundred days because it hasn’t come down to two hardcore people roughing it out all the way through.
4. Live, Free or Die
Do you want to really know how to live off the grid?
This is more of an honorable mention, because while it shows plenty of useful information, it’s not like we as survivors haven’t heard most of this before.
Still, there are things to learn from this show, and if you’re new to the idea of off-the-grid living or homesteading, you will find a ton of value in these episodes.
This follows real off-the-grid folk as they go through daily struggles and develop their lives away from the rest of civilization.
Learning From Real Examples
The most important thing you can do is learn from some real examples.
By that, I basically mean anything aside from what Bear Grylls has done.
It doesn’t matter if he went on the straight and narrow for the subsequent seasons of Man vs. Wild, because he already lied, got caught, and didn’t even seem that remorseful.
There’s no reason to believe the later episodes or series of his show.
Les Stroud, Ed Stafford, and some of the other unnamed heroes on the shows we mentioned earlier are real examples.
Back in the early 2000s, one of the best things about TV was that documentary-style shows and films were actually praised and adored, up until reality TV came in and really took over the spotlight.
A lot of producers tried to mix the two, but that’s not what the audience wants.
Thankfully, there are still some shining examples of quality survival television.
I wouldn’t exactly get my integrity-based information from something like Naked and Afraid even though it isn’t technically scripted, but with shows like Survivorman and Marooned With Ed Stafford, you actually get actionable information that you can use in the wilderness.
Survival TV Versus Reality TV
Is survival TV just like reality TV?
Yes and no. Shows like Alone definitely have a reality TV element to them with the prize pool and randomized contestants, but they don’t create issues for these contestants for the sake of television.
The producers value the real, raw input from the contestants during the show’s filming.
Then of course you have men like Les and Ed who really put the pedal to the metal and show us what it takes to be a survivor.
Those are real documentary-type shows that are so far from reality TV that they shouldn’t even be on the same channels as some of these other shows.
Now you know the truth.