Adventurer, TV host and producer Bear Grylls is quick to assert that his new NBC series “The Island”
is less a reality show than it is a social experiment.
“The truth is,” the 35-year-old Briton explains to Zap2it
, ” ‘The Island’ is not a survival show; it’s a study of what’s happened to modern masculinity — have we lost that streak of steel that’s always been so key to that American pioneer spirit — the ability to be practical and work together and conquer the world?”
The answer can be found in the hourlong, six-episode series that premieres Monday (May 25), in which 14 men from disparate backgrounds and with minimal survival skills are dropped on an uninhabited Pacific island with only a few tools and the clothes they’re wearing and left to fend for themselves. Over the course of a month, the contestants must figure out how to hunt for food, source water, erect shelter and build a community using only their strength, determination and ingenuity. And in a departure from the reality format, there are no camera crews; here, the men film their experiences themselves.
But first they must figure out who’s boss and how the work will get done, a process Grylls calls “the forming, the storming, the norming and the performing.”
“In the forming,” he says, “you put them together; the storming, because they’re trying to figure out their pecking order and how at the same time they’re beaten up, tired, hungry, thirsty, hurting, tired; all of that stuff. Then you work out how to normalize things, of actually how you’re going to survive this thing. You’ve got to figure out a system, and then you get eventually to performing, if you can get to that.”
In the end, some washed out, though Grylls was reluctant to say how many. But those who stuck with it, he says, came away with a confidence they didn’t have previously.
“When I pick them up a month later, those who are still there, they have a spark and a fire and a light in their eye that was incredible,” he says. “And they all said to me, ‘I remember when you said those things at the start, that together we’re stronger and there will be pain first but if you hang on in there, there will be a pride that is incredible.’ And now they understood it.”