Get Out Alive with Bear Grylls

It’s hardly a summer smash and boy, is it derivative. But I have to be honest – I’m rather enjoying NBC’s latest Survivor style reality show, Get Out Alive.

Okay the full title is Get Out Alive with Bear Grylls. And we all know this show would never exist if former Discovery star Grylls wasn’t on board. After falling out with his previous network over a contractual dispute (and trust me I know all about those!) Grylls was snapped up by NBC. Smart move in my book. Grylls is charming, likeable and of course a total tough guy. I love that Get Out Alive’s opener ended with Bear skydiving out of a plane. We’re definitely not talking Ryan Seacrest metrosexuality here…

Format wise there’s nothing special about Get Out Alive. It’s a total Survivor copycat, just like last year’s Expedition Impossible and this summer’s 72 Hours on TNT. Ten couples compete to ‘survive’ in the wilds of New Zealand and each week the ‘weakest’ couple is sent home by Grylls (with perhaps the most cumbersome and wordy send off in recent reality history!)

Yep, it’s utterly derivate. But Get Out Alive is glossy, well produced and entertaining – and this summer that’ll do for me.

The ten couples are straight out of the reality TV casting playbook. There’s the West Hollywood gay couple. The older couple who slow everyone down. The friendly bros who seem to like everyone. The father and son on a bonding mission… and so on.

But one of the things I’m really liking about Get Out Alive is how the show highlights different sides to people’s personalities, beyond their one line bios. In the wrong hands the gay couple would be a source of comedy – producers would go for the swishy stereotype and mine gold out of Hollywood gays in the wild. But Royce and Kyle are actually digging deep and holding their own. Similarly young computer programmer Austin is one of the toughest competitors in the bunch – he was the first contestant to drink down a whole bottle of warmed up urine and muddy water in the show’s disgusting first bonus challenge. For me that’s the secret to good casting. You want people who have layers. Not one note stereotypes.

Royce and Kyle -Get Out Alive

 Each week competitors complete a grueling trek, must set up camp and cook and eat some fairly basic food before taking part in a challenge to win some special treats and a dip in a hot tub. The great food comes courtesy of Walmart – ugh – and then show winners open a P&G sponsored box which rewards them with products like deodorant, toothpaste and mouthwash. Oh yes – the show’s product placement is really that heavy handed. It’s by far the most cringe-worthy moment of each show.

At the end of each episode the remaining contestants gather in camera friendly positions round a campfire as one pair is sent packing. Did I mention that Get Out Alive is derivate? But seriously though, couldn’t the show’s producers have come up with an elimination format that wasn’t such a shot by shot Survivor copy?

Oh well, Get Out Alive is non-demanding summer TV. It’s not a clever format but it’s well put together, and so far has avoided the US TV urge to over-script the reality and responses (the fate that befell TNT’s testosterone heavy reality show The Hero this summer)

Will I remember the show by the Fall? Probably not. But in a summer of weak TV offerings it’ll do for now.