Back in 2015 Les Stroud aka "Survivorman" posted an emotional message on his Facebook page, essentially dismissing every single "survival" show (other than his own of course) as fake. Here's a screen-grab of the part of his statement that I feel needs to be addressed.
First, I do want to make a quick side note regarding the statement where he claims to have started survival TV in 2001. That's not completely accurate. Benedict Allen was self filming his survival adventures around the world for BBC in the 80s (google it). Les still did it too, probably filmed them better, and made a great show, but no, he was not the first.
Now, back to business...
Quite honestly, I really never wanted to write this response. I even waited until 2017 to do it. I figured Les probably just had a few too many one night, posted this, and forgot about it. However, it has come up in my news feed at least a couple dozen times since 2015, and I can't help but wonder if more and more people are being misinformed with each passing day.
In his defense, some of it is true. I've been around survival entertainment long enough to know just how easily big cable networks can get the viewer to fall for their BS. In fact, I would have very little beef with this post if it hadn't mentioned the show that is near and dear to my heart, once again.
After his initial comment where he refers to ALONE as "Alone But Not Really" one of his fans asked a follow-up question.
Really Les? Really?
As you can see by the "....L" this was a personal response from Stroud himself.
I think I know why he called the show "Alone But Not Really." He was probably thinking of the fact that ALONE participants need to get mandatory well-checks about once every week. However, these are short, to the point, and are necessary to replenish camera batteries, hand in sd cards, and probably to get the show insured in the first place. (I'm obviously not involved in the "insurance" portion, but I can imagine that's the case) For perspective, if a well check was 5 minutes, and I got 7 of them, that means 35 minutes of my 79,200 minutes or approximately 0.04% of my minutes on the island were indeed spent with other people. However, this definitely doesn't justify any criticism. I figure if Les was really a purist, his show probably wouldn't be filled with melodramatic narration, and a rescue crew.
Every survival show these days says that it's the "real deal." In most cases, big TV networks manage to slaughter every legitimate show idea into a bloody pulp of cheap entertainment. Alone was different, and for an outdoorsman at heart like myself, Alone was the jackpot.
I remember my first day on the island. As I filmed the sea plane leaving my cove, I recall thinking "yea right." It was season 1 after all. Up until this point all the talk had seemed pretty legit, but I figured it was only a matter of time before the production crew came in on a boat to help "produce." There's no way they would actually expect to let 10 amateur outdoor guys film a television show without producers. I sat on a log, observing the landscape, snacking on some of my pemmican, waiting for the "Hollywood magic" to arrive... but nothing happened
In fact, when I tapped out over 7 weeks later, I still had yet to be assisted or even instructed by a producer. Alone kept the Hollywood magic where it belongs.... in Hollywood. In summary, the only production rules that ALONE participants have to follow are 1. Film everything, yes, literally everything, and 2. Tell everything to the camera. If you're wondering why it all seems so real, that's why. ALONE is as real as any survival program is going to get. It's just as real as "Survivorman" and, dare I say, it's probably even more legit than bigfoot.
Since the start of ALONE, 30 people have taken that same step away from society, to film a show like no other. We've experienced incredible hardships, extreme conditions, and starvation, all while filming the journey ourselves, week after week. Through these trials we experienced things that just can't be experienced where a camera crew is present; like what it means to be at peace with yourself, to love deeper, to push harder, and to truly feel the awesomeness of the natural world.
I don't know about any of the other participants, but I also got to experience what it's like to have the same crappy Eminem song stuck in your head for over a month. That was rough.
As I said at the beginning of this article, I had no intention of writing this post until my show was wrongfully accused of being "staged by producers." Had I not seen this post, I would still be watching and enjoying every Survivorman episode, as I had before.
I believe I speak for every ALONE participant when I say, we don't try to discredit your show. Please don't spread lies about ours.
About the author
Sam is a writer, outdoor educator, and founder of Woodsong Wilderness Living School who is best known for being runner-up on season 1 of HISTORY's hit survival series ALONE. In 2011 his practical experiences over many nights in remote wilderness areas inspired him to start this blog! Sam’s adventures have lead him throughout North America where he has had the opportunity to learn from world-class outdoorsmen, and the greatest teacher of all, the natural world.