For someone that’s a trained survivalist, Bear Grylls is really needy.
Netflix’s newest out of the box idea is “You vs. Wild,” an interactive survival mission led by the survivalist himself. The viewer accompanies Grylls across extreme climates and harsh terrains, trying to minimize risk and complete a mission each episode. The success is all in your hands.
After the success of “Bandersnatch,” it’s no surprise that Netflix is delving deeper into interactive storylines. Where “Bandersnatch” was a mind-bending tangle of third wall breaks and looped plots, “You vs. Wild” is a lot more “Dora the Explorer.” Being able to decide Bear Grylls’s fate is quite the novelty, without as much of the complexity.
Most of the missions are easy to get through without a snag as long as you choose the less risky option, but when you start to get a little crazy with it, it starts to get more fun.
So of course I tried to kill Bear Grylls.
After around episode four, I got a little tired of the constant “Good choice! It’s probably not a good idea to fight a crocodile” response, so I started sending the poor explorer off of cliffs and over some very thin ice sheets. What I learned in this is that you can’t really kill him, he just calls for rescue and you have to rethink your choices.
After putting him through enough life-threatening experiences to keep his adrenaline pumping for the next year, I started wondering how exactly they managed to film all of this.
Reality television is a bit of a misnomer already. There are usually loose scripts and plots in place beforehand, as well as a production team to keep things going, but is something like this even real enough to be reality?
Each episode is filmed on location in the various extreme climates of the world, and Grylls’s high-flying and low-crawling stunts are real, but they had to film both options, sometimes even branching off into a whole new plot depending on one decision. To pull this off, there had to be some degree of planning behind the storylines.
In addition to this, the missions sounded feasible enough to be “reality” but they were definitely pre-planned for the viewer. There is no way a show is going to leave a dog in the valley of The Alps only to film two different options for every choice along the way.
With that being said, Netflix is beginning to branch into something else entirely. It’s not reality TV because it’s not television at all. It’s a video game, a choose your own adventure book, and it’s what’s coming for the future of viewers that can no longer focus without interacting somehow.
“You vs. Wild” is fun and unique, but in its nature it’s a little artificial. It’s entertaining, but somewhat predictable, though in the grand scheme of things that’s better for the plot than a sprawling flowchart of choices and endings. Netflix is definitely bringing a format to the scene that isn’t going anywhere.