‘You vs. Wild’ surprisingly tame

In “You vs. Wild,” the viewer controls the actions of Bear Grylls, combat veteran, outdoorsman, and expert survivalist, to help him survive and thrive in the harshest environments in the world.

“You vs. Wild” employs an interactive concept new to Netflix commonly known as “choose your own adventure.” Netflix revived the concept with the show “Black Mirror,” in the episode “Bandersnatch.”

In a choose your own adventure show, at certain points in time, the viewer is prompted to make one of two decisions, resulting in two different possible clips being played. This results in the story forking off into completely different experiences based on the user’s choices.

While new to Netflix, the concept began with books, and has seen a recent resurgence in the video game community with major hits from Telltale such as “The Wolf Among Us” and “The Walking Dead.”

The episodes in “You vs. Wild” are inconsistent in length, ranging from 14 to 26 minutes, only four of which are standalone episodes.

The show has very high production quality, just as Grylls’ previous show did, with a full crew carrying video and sound equipment, all while shooting from several camera angles, through jungles, deserts, abandoned mines, and knee-deep snow in the deadly Swiss Alps.

It seems as though almost all the budget went to this quality of production, however, with poor writing when it comes to the several potentially deadly rescues Grylls performs over the eight episodes.

Further, when it comes to the decision making, the choices are often meaningless, goofy, or intended to teach a lesson that is so heavy-handed with its delivery, the viewer is compelled to choose the correct option.

My favorite choice within the series was whether Grylls would eat a mushroom he found on the ground.

“I know this isn’t a deadly mushroom, but it might make me really sick – it’s a gamble,” said Grylls. “Or I can have these [flower] buds over here, that I know are safe to eat. You’re in charge – the choice is up to you.”

I chose the mushroom.

While the show is meant to be a serious, action-adventure series, I found Grylls’ antics unbelievably hilarious.

From performing calisthenics to warm up, to doing at least two takes where he front and backflips out of a helicopter into a lake, everything Grylls does is with pure enthusiasm, and reckless abandon for his own comfort.

The basic idea is a solid hit – reviving the massively popular show, “Man vs. Wild,” while giving it a new dynamic to separate it as its own series, and testing new concepts Netflix is interested in.

It should have been a great reboot and continuation of the original series.

It should have walked the line between real danger and fantastical adventure.

It succeeded in neither of these objectives.

But it turned out to be absurdist comedy gold, and I can’t wait for the next season.

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