Mission Survive: Excellent Casting Makes Show Shine
Bear Grylls’ new show is not about brawn and it’s not sensationalist television, it’s about finding a hero, and it succeeds in being a kind of original, entertaining new format with excellent celebrity casting.
We begin as you’d expect, with the celebrities admitting their lack of preparation for a survival challenge. Kelly’s scared of water. Tom thinks if left alone he could be dead in three hours. Max claims the most extreme environment he’s ever encountered is Salford.
In the first episode, each of the celebrities have to jump, unaided, from a helicopter into a nasty looking algae-covered lake, leaving them emerging looking like, in Vogue’s William’s middle class words “quinoa.” It all goes according to plan, almost – Jamelia’s freaked and falls spectacularly, and, surprisingly, Kelly Holmes is afraid of water as well as losing.
Finally in the camp, the celebrities get an easy day of it. Bear explains he’s given them all the materials, food and tools they need to survive – including, get this, brain and heart, which apparently taste like corned beef – and they basically just have to survive the night without him. They manage to set a camp up, thanks mostly to Vogue’s two construction degrees, relight a fire they left to get sodden during a tropical downpour, and battle a terrifying spider.
Their next challenge is riding a horse to their next camp, which proves terrifying for Jamelia, who normally leaves the difficult task of horse-riding to her children. Of course, the prospect of jumping on a horse is no bother for Zara Phillips’ beau Mike Tindall, nor Laurence Fox, whom shares banter with Mike over not being able to make the polo team at Harrow.
They reach a new clearing, and are tasked with retrieving their food, which is held in sacks in the treetops and requires the skilled use of ropes and climbing. The others are tasked with clearing the area and setting up tents and a fire. Here’s where it goes horribly wrong. Kelly and Mike at first make quick work of the sacks, until Mike starts getting tired. Meanwhile, the celebrities attending the camp are next to useless. Vogue is skinning a wet tree branch for the fire, Max has no idea how to put the hammocks up, and Jamelia and the fire just doesn’t work out.
At the end, there’s an elimination. Except there isn’t. None of the celebrities have proved themselves useless yet, or rather, the ones who have have been the most entertaining to watch.
The show is not alike I’m A Celebrity: Get Me Out Of Here, yet it’s very easy to make the comparison. They both involve abandoning celebrities in the jungle to see what happens. There’s also some eating of strange things. But that’s where it ends. Firstly, Bear is a sympathetic, if hard, mentor. He’s a guy to aspire to, and the celebrities – all worthy of the title ‘celebrity’ by the way – are understandably in awe. Secondly, the celebrities involved are all strong characters, and it’s clear none have been brought in with the intention of being disruptive and causing drama. One can’t imagine Gemma Collins taking part in Mission Survive. They’re all potentially people who might win, and it’s refreshing. Thirdly, it’s not sensationalist television. It doesn’t need to be sensationalist television, because the tasks and skills these celebrities need to survive are sensational in themselves. We’re sure if you gave it three or four series, Mission Survive might get dull and flat, but right now it’s probably the hottest celebrity reality show of recent months.
Do we like it? Yes, and we’ll probably keep watching. It’s celebrity reality television sure, but it’s of the better kind, and stars a well-thought out ensemble. Watching people doing incredible things, that’s basically like doing them yourself, right?