When Les Stroud announced his retirement from "Survivorman" last year, wilderness-TV fans shed some tears, but we all hoped he'd be back. We're happy to report the time has come: Les Stroud returns to Canadian TV this week with "Survive This," in which eight teenagers with varying levels of outdoor skill are thrust into the Northern Ontario woods to survive with no tools outside of their clothes.
Stroud takes a smaller role and merely hosts the show, as well as offering occasional counsel to his youthful charges as they navigate the big, scary woods on their own. Stroud tells Canada's National Post he saw this as an opportunity for kids to help reconnect with the wonders of the wild world.
I think that trying to break down the wall between the concrete jungle and the forest jungle would be one of the things I’d like the kids to get out of this and everyone doing it to get out of it, as I did with my own show. You don’t have to be some kind of survival guru to do this kind of stuff. You can just be a regular person. And you can get through this. And if you can break yourself down and survive at the basic level with food, water and shelter, it’s a metaphor for life.
Stroud says the kids were kept safe, but otherwise left to their own devices when it came to survival, and while he offered some support, he wasn't about to be "holding their hands, not me being Uncle Les. I’ll just issue the challenge and they have to go through what I go through." He selected Northern Ontario (the site of the first "Survivorman" episode) as a survival zone because of its particularly brutal conditions:
Northern Ontario is hard survival. If you look at the Montagnais in Northern Quebec, which (has a) similar forest -- it’s a boreal forest -- they have no artwork. All cultures have art. Why don’t these people have art? Because they’re too busy surviving. If there’s no art, you can bet the whole time is spent hunting down some rat to eat.
There's no word yet on American television picking up the show, but surly teens + Les Stroud + brutal woods + rat eating sounds like a winning combination to us—we'll keep you posted.
And, Les, it's good to have you back. Kids, I hope you like your rat raw, because Uncle Les isn't going to go easy on you. Good luck.
Do you think you could survive in the Northern Ontario wilderness with just the clothes on your back? Our own Steve Friedman tried in "I Will Survive"—tell us how you'd do in the comments section below.
Q&A with Les Stroud on tough love in the wilderness (National Post)