In his hit Discovery Channel show “Man vs. Wild,” British-born survival expert Bear Grylls pitted himself against nature in extreme situations.
Starting Monday, July 8, in the new NBC series “Get Out Alive With Bear Grylls,” he takes that expertise and shares it with 10 teams of two as they set forth on a competitive expedition through the dramatic landscape of New Zealand’s South Island.
Each week, Grylls will send another team home. In the end, the one team he believes has shown the most heart, courage, initiative and resolve will win the $500,000 grand prize.
“I was always very clear at the start that this isn’t a test of physical courage,” Grylls tells Zap2it. “I’m taking you to a different place; you’ve got to listen. I’ll empower you with these skills, but ultimately I’m going to send home the people I believe that, on their own, would never get out alive.
“I’m looking for the qualities of a survivor. I was looking for that resourcefulness and that resolve, that courage and that humility, and that kindness to each other in that high-pressure environment — and the person that keeps going when they’re totally beat.”
Anyone who’s seen the “Lord of the Rings” movies has seen the icy rivers, glaciers, forests and mountains of New Zealand.
Says Grylls, “I picked New Zealand because there’s such a huge variety of terrain. I can take them from the high mountains to the low gorges, to raging rivers, to glaciers, to rain forests. But we definitely upped the ante every journey.
“We had huge traverses, which is like the guys are crawling themselves along these gorges. We had all that rain-forest stuff, big rapids. The fear of the unknown was always an element for them.”
Since Grylls is from the Isle of Wight, he could have done the show there or somewhere else in Europe, with an international cast.
“That’s exactly what my wife says,” explains Grylls. “She says, ‘Why can’t he just do it at home?’ The first goal was always, for Season 1, let’s do it with Americans and just take regular people. Let’s take them to the hardest place I believe we can find for varied terrains on the planet.
“God willing, the people like it, and it inspires and encourages people, and we get to do it again; it would be great to do it in different terrains and with different nationalities, then mix it up a bit.
“But the thing is, the series was strong enough; it didn’t need glitz at this stage. It just needed the basics. Just take regular people, and let’s show what you can inspire and bring out of people under pressure.”
And, Grylls hopes, he just might find a hero.
“You see, on Day One, these people, you think, ‘They’re going to die,’ ” he says. “Whether it’s the overweight guys or the older guys or the gay couple, or whatever it is. But actually, there’s no blueprint for a hero. You need to squeeze people to see what they’re made of.
“That was really the power of this series. We put people under the squeeze. I said there was going to be pain. But at the end, if you’re in any doubt of whether the American hero is still alive, the answer is ‘Yes.’ Everyday people, people who, when the pressure was on, they delivered.
“They totally deserved that money, the couple that I gave it to at the end. I always said at first, ‘There will be pain, but the pain never lasts forever.’ That was one of the key lessons they learned.”