Is Running Wild with Bear Grylls staged or is it real? How survival show pushes stars out of comfort zone

Bear Grylls with Don Cheadle on Running Wild with Bear Grylls
Bear Grylls with Don Cheadle on the latest season of Running Wild

Globetrotting adventurer Bear Grylls is known for his death-defying feats in the wildest of terrains, but some incredulous viewers of his NBC show Running Wild with Bear Grylls wonder how real the danger the survivalist stares down on a weekly basis is.

Now in its fourth season, the survival skills reality show features the iron man performing acts of daring-do in spectacular scenic spots around the world, but he’s not alone: each week an uninitiated celebrity joins him.

In Season 4 guests include tennis ace Roger Federer, The Fate of the Furious star Scott Eastwood, World of Dance judge, dancer and choreographer Derek Hough, The Americans star Keri Russell, Orange Is the New Black star Uzo Aduba, and Oscar nominee Don Cheadle.

How challenging are the treks? This season Bear’s wilderness travels have him rappelling Spain’s frozen Pyrenees Mountains and the snow-capped Swiss Alps, crossing Kenya’s harsh terrain and the volcanic landscape of the Canary Islands. Past locales include the Isle of Skye, Yosemite National Park, and the Panama jungle. Did we mention the multitude of wild animals encountered along the way?

How much of the rappelling, hiking, and exploring of extraordinary and treacherous landscapes are staged? There’s no doubt that Grylls is the real deal — and some — but hardly all of the celebs are in superb physical shape.

However, according to Bear, his show is about letting viewers see his guests, “in a very open, honest and vulnerable way, pushing them out of their comfort zones and seeing what they are like in real life when stripped of all the benefits of celebrity”.

He adds: “Ultimately, this show is about taking these stars on the adventure of a lifetime and being alongside them when they discover something new and empowering about themselves and their world.”

In case you’re wondering, the celebs, including past guest US president Barack Obama, are paid, but not “as much as you think,” according to executive producer Ben Silverman.

The long and the short of it is that prior to Bear’s arrival his crew has set up the challenges and locations, and the camera crew are obviously there to film what happens, but ultimately the show is an awesome and real combination of creative physical prowess, majestic scenery and celebs showing the genuine sides of themselves. What’s not to like?

Running Wild with Bear Grylls airs Mondays at 10/9c.

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