ADVENTURER Bear Grylls has embarked on many challenges throughout the course of his life, from climbing Mount Everest a mere 18 months after breaking his back, to serving for three years as a reservist with the SAS.
However, his latest project may be his most daring yet, as he hosts Mission Survive, a new ITV show which features eight celebrities learning how to survive in the jungle and which hit the tv screens this week.
The cast includes Rugby World Cup winner Mike Tindall, double Olympic gold medalist Kelly Holmes, pop stars Jamelia and Max George, actors Emilia and Laurence Fox, comedian Tom Rosenthal, and model Vogue Williams.
Forty-year-old Grylls has embarked on a creative publicity campaign for the show, memorably smashing through the glass windows of This Morning harnessed by a rope.
The presenter is clearly proud of his new program, and describes the concept as an empowering journey for people where some crumble, and some come alive.
Despite being on the same channel and featuring some similar aspects of ITV’s I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here, the differences are significant.
“Even though we have celebrities and yes we’re in a jungle, this is I’m A Celebrity on steroids,” said Grylls.
“Celebrities are not treated with special care or sympathy on the show, and are mostly left to use their own initiative, which becomes tested when faced with difficult tasks including jumping out of helicopters and climbing down waterfalls, or even simply lighting a fire or finding shelter.”
Perhaps the most unique aspect of Mission Survive is the lack of an easily identifiable winner’s prize.
This is because the idea of the series is intended to be, in Grylls’ own words, “About me trying to build the contestants into a hero, so that if my kids were there without me lost in the jungle I’d want those celebrities beside them.”
This thought process is key for Grylls, who aimed for this to be not just a typical reality show, but one for people taking part who want the sense of achievement, that when pushed under pressure they have the
steel that will drive people on.
One of the most demanding moments of the series occurs in episode two when the celebrities are forced to drink a pint of their own urine.
Grylls became notorious in his earlier career when he drank his own waste on television, and after years of survival training, there are not many items he won’t consume if it means staying alive.
“I’ve learnt in survival to get over the grim stuff.” he admits.
“If it’s good energy you need and your life is on the line you’ve got to put your prejudices aside and do it.”
The removal of preconceptions is a key component for Mission Survive, and Grylls is quick to point out
how Silent Witness actress Emilia Fox was ‘well prepared, driven and determined’, while explaining that despite the involvement of two world class athletes in the competition, ‘muscles, fitness and strength are not the only weapon in the survivor’s arsenal.’
Despite the dangers of the show, including somebody getting stung by bees and half drowning, plus a hospital visit for Mike Tindall after he got hit on the head by a piece of wood, the physical nature of the show was not the hardest part for all involved.
“I said to the celebrities at the beginning that you have to embrace failure.” said Grylls.
“It’s so counter-culture for people, especially when you’re on TV to dare to fail, because you’ll look silly or vulnerable, but the heart of survival is embracing failure, to be resourceful and never give up until you get what you want.”
Mission Survive is a rare anomaly in the world of terrestrial television, a show that despite the famous faces and the exotic location offers a more philosophical and human approach to competition, survival, and self-improvement.
* Bear Grylls: Mission Survive, airs on Fridays at 9pm on ITV