Survivorman Returns


Image courtesy of Discovery Channel.

I'm a big fan of Les Stroud, better known as Survivorman. When his survival show first appeared on Discovery seven years ago, it was a breath of fresh air -- by shooting everything himself (he lugs all the gear with him; no crew), Stroud gave us a voice in the wilderness that was authentic, minimally produced, and very personal. Indeed, this is a show created by, written by, directed by, and starring Les Stroud. He even provides much of the music, and brings along his harmonica to play in the wilderness. So this is very much the vision of one man.

The initial run of Survivorman was three seasons, and they took a long time to produce. He spent a total of 170 days in the wilderness over a period of years. Stroud had to find some remote location, go there, survive, recuperate, edit the footage, and then repeat...dozens of times. It took roughly four years to put together the three seasons (a total of 23 shows), and it took a toll on Stroud -- each season's number of episodes declined, he was kinda beat-up from all that wilderness adventure, and he shot his last Survivorman episodes at the age of 47. He worked on various specials, spent more time with his family, focused on his music, and it was easy to assume from the fan's perspective that our Survivorman (in the sense of a guy going into the wilderness by himself with cameras) was retired.

Les Stroud - closeup
Les Stroud - closeup /

But now, at the age of 50, he's back -- surviving for ten-day stretches in two locations. Each location is split into two one-hour-long shows, so in a sense we have a fourth mini-season of Survivorman here. It's basically the same formula (though now the camera gear is fancier and the journeys are themselves longer), and Stroud is the same man -- though he's just a touch older and wiser. And that last comment is saying a lot; Stroud has been pretty damn wise for decades.

The new season (dubbed Survivorman Ten Days) is currently airing on Discovery, and is mid-way through its run. Check local listings for show times in your area -- the new episode airs tonight at 8pm Eastern/Pacific, with a mini-marathon of previous episodes leading up to it.

Here's a clip with footage from tonight's show, shot in Norway. In classic Survivorman style, Stroud finds a novel way to light a fire:

This new Survivorman run is great, largely because it retains everything that made the original series great: Les Stroud alone in the wilderness with a harmonica. Play on, brother.

Les Stroud in Norway
Les Stroud in Norway /

Blogger disclosure: I was not specially compensated for this review. I freaked out a little when I heard there were new episodes coming -- it's like Christmas came three months early.