Over the years, Bear Grylls has taken some notable names on adventures with him on Running Wild with Bear Grylls. Among his traveling companions, the former SAS serviceman can count Jake Gyllenhaal, Kate Winslet, Zac Efron, and most impressively, former President of the United States Barack Obama. That was when the series was running wild (sorry) for four seasons on NBC, so it comes as a welcome surprise to not only see Running Wild begin its fifth season on National Geographic, but that the show hasn’t lost its touch when it comes to enlisting stars to undergo a little survival training with Mr. Grylls.
The series is essentially an adventure version of a celebrity food show. Grylls has to wear a number of different hats in each episode, including host, teacher, and journalist, as he lets his guests catch their breath for a minute or two to answer some personal questions about their careers and where they get their motivation. It’s been an enduring concept as, unlike, say, Parts Unknown, which has any number of imitators, Running Wild is still pretty much the only show that drags A-list celebrities out into the wilderness to see if they can handle what Grylls throws at them.
Yes, its overseen by any number of safety measures and crew members, but that doesn’t prevent Running Wild from being as entertaining as ever. And as the show prepares to enter its fifth season, it’s clear how much Grylls and his crew have learned over the years, as each destination seems handpicked to suit his guests' skills and fears, making their journey together much more entertaining — real life peril or not.
While it's been a minute since Grylls ventured solo into the wilderness to test his own impressive survival skills, and to eat some pretty disgusting stuff in order to “stay alive,” it’s a good bet that he’ll be on his own in front of the camera again before too long. (It is after all hard to keep a good survivalist down.) But until that happens, Running Wild will do in a heartbeat. And as such, the measure of a good season of Running Wild has to do with the quality of the guests Grylls is set to adventure with.
Season 5 might be the most impressive yet, as the host runs around with the likes of Brie Larson, Dave Bautista, Armie Hammer, Joel McHale, Cara Delevingne, Rob Riggle, Zachary Quinto, Bobby Bones, Channing Tatum, and professional rock climber and subject of Free Solo, Alex Honnold. The guest list is impressive, to say the least, and it speaks to the level of interest Nat Geo has in turning Running Wild into an important part of its programming. As an added bonus, it appears the network has also spared no expense in shipping its resident survivalist and his celebrity guests all over the world.
The 10-episode series begins in the Pearl Islands of Panama with Brie Larson, before jumping to the deserts of the US to tour with McHale in Arizona’s Slot Canyons. Later, two episodes unfold in Sardinia, while others take place in Iceland, Norway, the Swiss Alps, and a return to the Panama jungles. As such, the landscapes — harsh though the show intends them to be — are often as compelling as the guests. And with the differing levels of outdoor experience between many of his traveling companions, Grylls has his work cut out for him.
While the series enjoys putting its host and his guests in some presumably sticky situations, it also doesn’t waste a chance to see them prove their mettle with a little food dare. In season 5, viewers will be treated to Armie Hammer eating rotten grouper before taking a refreshing drink of goat’s milk, straight from the tap. Meanwhile, Larson downs a beetle larvae and a fresh crab, and Riggle eats a reindeer’s face. In other words, Running Wild hasn’t lost its sense of humor or its sense of (culinary) adventure.
It’s perhaps a testament to the show that Tatum would return for another go-round, after first appearing in season 1, episode 3. This time, though, the pair are miles away from Yosemite National Park in California, as they venture to Gloppedalsura, Norway for a seven-mile trek and some Navy SEAL-style cold-water immersion training. In the end, it seems celebrities are just like everyone else: they can’t quit Bear Grylls.
Running Wild with Bear Grylls season 5 premieres Tuesday, November 5 @10/9c on National Geographic.