Running Wild with Bear Grylls returned for a second season. The first season I missed entirely. In fact, I wondered when his one-season-and-done reality show would return last summer. I wrote about Bear Grylls’ various action-adventure programs since 2008, when I penned a piece for my student newspaper about whether or not him staying in hotel rooms during Man vs. Wild filming. It’s still the single most read piece I’ve written.
Running Wild returns Bear to his roots: hiking in the wilderness while doing dangerous things and eating things civilized Americans would look at with disgust. Bear alone makes for his best episodes. Man vs. Wild remains his best show. Whenever he brought people with him, the pace slowed. I prefer Bear Grylls wildly romping in the wilderness alone with nothing but his production crew, a wood flint, an empty water bottle, camping gear, and three chestnuts.
His adventures with celebrities used to be one-off episodes, a very special episode of Man vs. Wild, if you will;.I remember when he took Jake Gyllenhaal into the wild before returning to his regular episodes. Now he’s all in with celebrities. I watched five minutes of a re-run from last season. Bear and actor Channing Tatum ascended a rockface. At the top, Bear asked Channing about acting, his work ethic, what else he’d like to accomplish after having already accomplished so much. I thought, “Okay. That’s the format. Bear has celebrities do relatively dangerous things and he also brings out a side the public hasn’t seen from the celebrities.” I think industry folk would use the term ‘soft profile’ to describe it. Bear’s essentially a publicist now. If I close my eyes I can see Entertainment Weekly’s floral lede to its profile about Kate Hudson in the mountains. “Kate Hudson dangles 150 feet above the white snow and green conifers of the Dolomites in northeastern Italy…” followed by a summation of what the experience will open up inside her: thoughts about her first marriage, fame at a young age, her famous parents, her children, and her distinction as a rom-com queen. All of which is buttoned with the final hook that she needs to travel 150 feet to the rocky, steep, craggy snowy surface below.
Hudson immediately dons her sunglasses for her 150 feet repel to the surface. Bear charts their two day adventure: 14 mile hikes, wild ascents, scary descents, and then extraction. Their first conversation concerns her reputation as a rom-com queen, a reputation she disagrees with, because she acted in other genres more than romantic comedies. Bear probably looked at her IMDB page and saw a string of romantic comedies in the 2000s. Hudson produced the dreadful Bride Wars in 2009. She chose to produce romantic comedies. Own it, Hudson. Besides the rom-com talk, Hudson says her parents let her make her own decisions about her career. The highlight of their conversation is Bear’s admittance of a particular fondness for 2008’s Fool’s Gold, the star of which is McConaughey’s abs and pecs. I can’t trust Bear’s quirky choice of that film, though. Bear’s PR team probably selected it as his favorite because of its social media potential or whatever.
The coolest part of the episode involves the Dolomite bunkers, built for and used during the First World War. The engineering involved in constructing bunkers within mountains astounds me. Bear and Hudson walk through the labyrinthine bunkers, find pigeons, and a bullet from the First World War which Bear later uses for the fire. The bunkers detour lacks Bear’s historical commentary. Once he would’ve told the viewers about the history of Mussolini’s Italy, the fighting, the misery; H.G. Well described the Dolomites as “grim and wicked, worn old mountains.” Thousands died in the fight for control of the mountains between Italy and Austria. If gunfire and other war weapons didn’t kill soldiers, hypothermia and avalanches would. Soldiers climbed carrying heavy artillery and built barracks on the summit. Unfortunately, Bear’s silent about history. Hudson freaks about the enclosed space.
Bear’s challenges includes various repels from high ground to low ground. He and Hudson repel from the bunkers to snowy ground. They walk to camp in pine country, below the snow line, and bond over pigeon meat. Bear talked to her about her children, her upbringing, Kurt Russell raising her from the age of 3, as well as her marriage. For dessert, Bear ate another wood ant. Hudson ate one for an appetizer, at Bear’s urging. During the night, Bear turned on the camera to share worst pickup lines with Hudson. I longed for the days when Bear would stare at the sky. Hudson, while lying on a bed of pine, tells Bear his kids are lucky to experience the many beautiful places of earth. Bear knows he’s lucky.
-Kate told Bear that Kurt Russell’s a mountain man. She split time between Los Angeles and Colorado during her childhood. Russell is truly a man. I’d hike the Rockies with Kurt Russell or explore canyons with him or raft in rivers with him. My good friend portrayed Kurt Russell in a series of movies filmed between 2007-2010.
-The fifth of those movies, titled Goddamnit Not This Again, told the story of Kurt Russell trying to rescue his daughter, Kate Hudson, from famed French horror director Alexandre Aja. My other good friend, my first good friend’s soon-to-be-wife, portrayed Kate Hudson. Yes, indeed, she did. The movie also included Islanders general manager Garth Snow, the reason for his inclusion eludes me five years later. I remember he boasted to Hudson about signing players to terrible contracts (terrible for the organization, not the player). I don’t remember the ending, but I’d guess I didn’t resolve anything worthwhile.