‘Out of the Wild’: Adventures in Tastelessness?

Travel Blog  •  Eva Holland  •  04.17.09 | 12:24 PM ET

A new travel reality show premiered on the Discovery Channel this week. Out of the Wild: The Alaska Experiment follows nine people who’ve been dropped into the middle of the Alaskan wilderness, with “just three days of survival training and limited supplies.” And, the promo claims dramatically, “Not everyone will make it Out of the Wild.” Sound familiar? Hey, yeah, that is kind of like what happened to that McCandless kid, now that I think about it.

Now, obviously the Discovery Channel is not going to let one of its contestants starve to death on air—even for reality TV, that would be taking things too far. But is it me, or is riffing on an actual young man’s death in the name of hype and cheap tube drama still more than a little bit tasteless?

Admittedly, I wasn’t able to catch the premiere on Tuesday, so the promo (below) is all I have to go on so far. Did anyone else see it? What do you think? Compelling adventure show or exploitation of the McCandless tragedy?

(Via The Remote Island)

Eva Holland is co-editor of World Hum. She is a former associate editor at Up Here and Up Here Business magazines, and a contributor to Vela. She's based in Canada's Yukon territory.

51 Comments for ‘Out of the Wild’: Adventures in Tastelessness?

Jennifer 04.17.09 | 12:57 PM ET

An exploitation of the McCandless tradgedy, an exploitation of the success of the movie and a rip off of Survivor (which is not saying much since I think Survivor is terrible).  Watching random people try to survive (like there’s not medics just out of camera frame!!!) contrived (hey, I don’t are what you say - it’s reality TV) situations in Alaska sounds boring!!!

TambourineMan 04.17.09 | 1:29 PM ET

Yeah, looks dull. You KNOW Discovery Channel is praying the macho hunter guy shoots himself in the foot. Big ratings! Big fun!

Biased 04.17.09 | 11:11 PM ET

Yes, there were camera men and medics on the side lines however, there was no interaction with the contestants and the crew..  Of course Explorer has a responsibility for the contestants however, until you have tried it and walked in the contestant shoes, don’t be so quick to judge.  It wasn’t a picnic for them as you can see if you watched the film and I give my hat off to those who were willing to try.  At least they had an experience of a life time.  Can you say the same?

Eva Holland 04.17.09 | 11:22 PM ET

@Jennifer - Funny you mention Survivor. Remember all the outrage when they killed that wild pig? I wonder how a show based entirely on subsistence hunting will go over with the animal rights crowd.

@TambourineMan - Or maybe shoots one of buddies in the face, by accident?

@Biased - My point wasn’t really about whether it was tough on the contestants or not. Yes, I’m sure it wasn’t easy, but they still had it a heck of a lot easier than the young man whose death they are parodying. I don’t really blame the contestants, though. I just think the concept is a little, well, off.

Lindsey 04.18.09 | 9:08 AM ET

Well I just don’t get it.

People love all these REALITY TV shows but they don’t ever go outside themselves!

I never have watched any of them. Yet when I tell people stories of my adventures, they somehow parrellel it to one of those shows they watched.

Go figure!

Phil Montana 04.18.09 | 11:55 AM ET

I watched the first episode and can’t believe that there were three people with outdoor experience not being utilized. Espeically, the fishing outfitter that could not catch a fish to feed the crew. The hunter that went out hunting squirrels and could not hit one. Net result of their efforts after three days of hunting, a mouse and sitting around feasting on it and not thinking about the missing member.
If these people are intelligent?, Ordinary? They are absurd under the circumstances in that they would not collectively understand individual abilities and use those strengths in the survial situation to teach others and provide for the group.
The only one with any common sense, saw the reality and left the group, a smart decision.

TambourineMan 04.18.09 | 2:09 PM ET

Eva wrote: “Or maybe shoots one of buddies in the face, by accident?”

Exact-a-mundo, my dear. We want Cheney!

Ling 04.19.09 | 10:23 AM ET

Now that’s a great idea for a reality show - every week, we find a new bunch brave enough to go hunting with Dick Cheney. :)

Paul 04.22.09 | 2:21 AM ET

I’m not sure that the McCandless situation was really a tragedy.  He did manage to survive for three months out there, and the only reason he didn’t make it out was because he hadn’t taken the time to scout the river properly.  Also, it was his choice to do it - nobody made him go out there without a lifeline.  He took a chance (or opportunity, depending on how you look at it) and paid for it with his life.

I’m enjoying the show, and I’m glad that the experienced ones are now out of the game, because they were obviously a bit too stuck in their way of thinking about things that they weren’t able to adapt to the Alaskan wild.  They recognized how difficult their task is… and left.  Probably a smart decision.  The others, however, are naive enough to try to push through, and that’s why the show is interesting.  I like watching these people try to figure it out.  It’s not an easy task at all, and considering the total inexperience of the group, I think they’re doing fairly well.

I’m kind of surprised that the police officer isn’t doing more of the shooting though.  He’s got training in that sort of thing…. the principles of shooting are basically the same between a service pistol and that little shotty they’re carrying around.  I’m a bit worried about that gun, honestly.  This last episode had a scene where they were walking around in a line and the person with the shotgun was flagging everybody in front.  Bad, bad, bad, bad, bad!

I don’t think the show is exploitative, but the advertising might be.

michaux 04.22.09 | 7:45 AM ET

I don’t know exactly what kind of survivor training they received, but I cannot imagine someone backpacking a cast iron dutch oven in their gear.

myself 04.23.09 | 5:53 PM ET


i agree with you man, i thinnk the show is pretty good. as far as Into the Wild goes you are exctly right it is not a tragity it’s a story about freedom for one young man.

that was his freedom getting away from everything to experance it on his own. i would be intrested to see exactly what he wrote in his journal.

the thing i’m amazed at is their in ability to fish. get a longer Pool.

i do really want to find out how to sign up to be on this show.

erisvet 04.29.09 | 2:09 AM ET

Great comments, Paul!
I admire these young people. I know a little bit about surviving under very difficult circumstances- and what they got is the amazing friendship that will last a lifetime.
I really enjoy this show partly because the remaining 6 people are so likable. I was glad when the
“hunter” lady and “fishing expert” left. Boy, that’s one expert I will never hire to teach me about fishing!

Joseph 05.02.09 | 12:14 AM ET

I’m really impressed by the show, and I think that it makes people realize how hard it can be to survive in the wild.  I like that they took ordinary people and put them in the show, because they make more mistakes which can create some excellent learning moments. 

Similarly I don’t think the show is disrespectful of the McCandless tragedy, if anything it increases awareness of what took place, it might get people to read the book which I hear is a great read, and it will hopefully get people to try out some new skills on their next camping trip.

Shawn Reynolds 05.06.09 | 1:51 AM ET

This is the stupidest show.  Apparently the cast did not listen to any of the training from the experts.  My kids are laughing at them, they are passing food left and right.  Next time the discovery channel employs an expert, make it an Alaskan Native who is used to living off the land.  50,000 years and we’re still here.  I hope us Alaskan tax payers are not paying for the gas to get these clowns out.
These folks are probably great at what they do in the city, but this is Alaska.

Jen 05.09.09 | 8:07 PM ET

I think it is pretty ballsy of Ms. Holland to rip apart a show she hasn’t seen before.  At least she was honest that she didn’t like this sort of show to begin with.  I agree with Paul, myself, etc.  These are amateurs but they are out there doing there inexperienced best to make it go right.  I wouldn’t be out there, but personally I find it fascinating to watch people trying to survive under these circumstances even if there is a safety net at a moments notice.  It is a glimpse into human character and interpersonal relationships.

Kevin 05.11.09 | 2:09 PM ET

Speaking of amateurs, how about somebody who blasts the show without even bothering to watch it.  Somebody’s not getting their money’s worth.

For those self-righteous pontifiactors who don’t like the show, there a little button on your remote that should solve all your problems.

sara 05.13.09 | 5:20 PM ET

I have watched the show a few times and last night was the worse.  Whether its reality or not.  I thought when the girls were going to shoot that bear it was ridiculous..  Shoot a bear for five people to eat.  That was retarded.  Basically, everytime I have watched the show has been retarded.  Its one thing if you are really starving and another to have a made up story about being hungry.  I just think the entire show is stupid.  You had a guy on there that was suppose to be a fisherman and never caught one fish.  Plain stupid.  I will never watch it again.  NOW, THE DEADLIEST CATCH ROCKS.  AWESOME SHOW!

Paul 05.13.09 | 7:03 PM ET

Uh… sara, everybody on that show has lost a considerable amount of weight.  I think it’s pretty clear that they’re not eating regularly, and are buring through their stores of body fat very quickly.  I’ve been in the field before, without much food, for a couple weeks at a time, and I can attest to the rapid weight loss, especially in cold climates.  No, they’re not starving yet, but it’s pretty clear that they’re not getting much (if any) food other than what they find in the cabins and what they manage to kill.

A bear would have been an excellent kill for the group.  It wouldn’t be difficult to preserve it in those temperatures (although carrying all that meat would have presented a challenge).  And, just in case you didn’t know, fishing season is long gone by the end of September, which is when these people were dropped into the bush.  That’s not just a permits issue, that’s a “fish aren’t biting” issue.  Most fishing guides are experts in their LOCAL area, and knowing what fish generally like doesn’t mean that he’d know where the good spots are in BFE, Alaska.

Besides, if you hate the show so much, why bother commenting here?  As a previous commenter has noted, there’s a little button on your remote that can solve all your problems…

Tahoe 05.15.09 | 7:21 PM ET

Wow, it’s amazing that so many are so eager to go negative.  There are lots of shows I don’t care for but I would never waste my time on a blog just to say how much I hate it.  Anyway, regardless of its imperfections, I enjoy wilderness shows that first are in HD and are awesome just to look at, one like this where you can process situations and the decisions that are made that I can learn from or would have done differently.  But hey, to me that’s entertainment. 

Is it the best show I have ever watched?  No.  Do I look forward to seeing it each week?  Yes.  And by the way, I enjoyed the McCandless story both at the theater and the book as well.  Don’t really care much if it inspired the show or not.  With that attitude we would have let Robinson Crusoe RIP and we never would have had Gilligan’s Island.  LOL

gyrfalcon 05.16.09 | 12:04 PM ET

“Yes, there were camera men and medics on the side lines however, there was no interaction with the contestants and the crew..  Of course Explorer has a responsibility for the contestants however, until you have tried it and walked in the contestant shoes, don’t be so quick to judge. “

If you believe there is no interaction you’re a complete retard… They give them base camps every few hundred feet and provide them food/equipment whenever the idiots screw up.

For example the idiots go hunting for an entire day and get a SQUIRREL.  They get vegetables from the producers to make a stew with it else they would all starve.

Out of the wild is complete garbage filmed for the lowest common denominator.

Docgrizzly 05.17.09 | 11:30 AM ET

It’s a shame so many people have televisions without a channel selector or an on/off switch. Try this, if you don’t like the show, change the channel or turn it off.

I would rather not have the camera crew along, but then how could you see the show? I think it is a pretty good survivor piece. I just wish that they had picked a couple of better outdoor people to be part of he cast. I would go in a heartbeat! But then I play in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado and this would be just fun for me!

I like the show. I wish it was better. I liked the McCandless book and movie. I thought it was instructive. And so is Out Of The Wild. What would happen to all of those who have gone negative about the show if, for some unforeseen reason, they found themselves having to survive in the wilderness. Might they have learned just one thing about survival from watching this show?

I would invite everyone out there in America to try to learn just a few things about survival in the wilderness of the woods or the wilderness of urban survival.

Holly 05.17.09 | 8:11 PM ET

I like the show. I am not usually into reality shows because they are all about winning money or a date with a washed up musician. This show is interesting to me. As others have pointed out, you don’t have to watch it if you find it to be “boring”. Feel free to watch an action packed reality dating show on another channel.

gyrfalcon 05.18.09 | 10:40 AM ET

My television does have a remote, and an on/off switch… The problem is that crap like this is on most stations, and only seems to become more prevalent.  Yes I can watch other shows from my media server, but I’m not going to be quite about dumb shows.

Out of the Wild has NOTHING to do with REALITY.  You could probably learn more survival skills in 10 minutes reading a book than you could watching this show from beginning to end.

Maybe if they renamed it ‘Morons in the Wild’ I wouldn’t have anything valid to complain about…  After all McCandless was a moron and he died.

don 05.19.09 | 10:18 PM ET

Let’s take nice gentle people and teach them to kill wildlife.  What’s the pupose of this show anyway.? Wouldn’t it be easier to go to a campground? lol.  Don

Roy 05.20.09 | 5:04 AM ET

IMHO, its a pretty decent show.  I love the idea of dropping a group of people out in the wild and making them fend for themselves and try to get back to civilization.  Granted, the camera and emergency crews are there,  but Still, these people go through a lot.  I’d love to be able to volunteer. Anyone know if they are planning on doing another thing like this?

pat 05.22.09 | 1:54 PM ET

I dig it, watch every episode. ‘Morons in the Wild’ is exactly why I like it. You see just how badly the wrong decision can affect the whole group, as exemplified in the each episode when the cast has to decide what articles to leave behind. If they had shifted focus on the first day to ‘what should we not leave in the pile o crap’ instead of ‘take everything’ (violin and snow shovel?!?) their experiences would have been very different. Each time one of them goes tromping about, stalking game with a camera crew on their heels instead of hiding for ambush I chuckle then die a little inside. If any of them make it out without calling the chopper, they will have learned a great deal about survival and bushcraft, and so will novices watching the show. For me, that’s greatly entertaining.

Dalivore 05.29.09 | 2:58 AM ET

For those on here that think it wrong to hunt for food, I seriously hope that our country doesn’t completely implode, because I’ll be passing your starved out corpse with a few ducks on a string and hopefully some deer meat in tow.  Yes it is possible to survive off of processed vegan food, but when that’s gone, and you’ve got to build a shelter, keep a fire going and find food… all I got to say is “GOOD LUCK!”.

Chris TMC 05.30.09 | 6:40 PM ET

You should watch the show, there is nothing tasteless about it.

marge m 06.01.09 | 9:52 PM ET

I’ve had some experience in the wild, and enjoy the show a lot. They do stupid things, but to me it is not so much about survival skills but the indomitable will to go on. These people are getting nothing out of this other than the chance to prove to themselves that they can do it. Yes, they know they aren’t really going to die, and can bail out at any moment, but they have determination and spirit. Bravo!

Ken L 06.02.09 | 1:58 PM ET

This is the second season of the Alaska Experiment. Check out last year’s show where the groups were dropped off in various camp sites to fend for themselves. Pretty interesting.
This year the show went in a different direction, and all the better. The photography, especially on HD, is gorgeous.  I love Alaska and worked there for 4 summers.The scenery could not get any better. I also enjoy the interaction that has developed with this group of people to date. No bickering, no jeolousy, sort of like “real people getting along.”
To GYRFALCON, your response about your remote having an on/off switch indicates that you are somehow forced to watch television. If you don’t like what is on, watch a video or turn the thing off. If you or anyone else does not enjoy the show, why waste your time.  Find and do that which brings you job.  For me, I will continue to watch this show, and others like it on the Discovery Channel: Deadliest Catch and The Everest Experience coming this fall.

John 06.03.09 | 12:09 AM ET

Who is the McCandless kid?  I think its about showing the harshness of living without grocery stores, running water and the internet some people use to make fun of TV shows.

BantyMom 06.03.09 | 1:11 AM ET

I’d always wanted Survivor to pick Alaska, but knew they wouldn’t because they couldn’t have the girls running around in practically nothing. But I thought it would be much more challenging. And I really like that these people have to keep moving. Then the snow comes and they can’t just be gatherers anymore, and pretty soon, they can’t even hunt. That bear would have been an enormous windfall for them.

custom travel experience 06.04.09 | 2:21 PM ET

Sound just like a Survivor clone. I’m not so sure if the Survivor contestants were telling the truth but I could recall one saying that he really almost starved. They thought that after the taping somebody would come to give them a bit of food but the crew just packed up and left. Same story for Fight Quest, a show that I really liked. Both of the guys sustained real injuries and nothing was scripted. I think they would just pull out a contestant if can’t carry on anymore.

Paul S 06.08.09 | 9:05 PM ET

I enjoy the show as a backpacker the best way is to learn from others mistakes. So in that respect it is educational and informative.This show fits the discovery channel profile perfectly, even if there are support personel, the question I ask myself is how would I measure up to that particular scenario. And to the nay sayers I recommend giving up the couch, put on a pack and head out into the wilderness you will appreciate your shower and toilet alot more. As well as respect those that endure on the show.

gyrfalcon 06.09.09 | 1:33 AM ET

Wow, after reading most of the comments posted here I’ve come to a great realization.

A)  I am the worlds most experienced survivalist.


B)  The world is mostly full of idiots.


C) The Discovery channel pays a lot of shills to go around posting asinine comments on their horrible shows.

caroleena jones 06.10.09 | 12:47 AM ET

Hi -I’ve watched every OUT OF THE WILD show, mainly just to see the scenery. I love Alaska. I go up there every chance I get (but NOT out in the wilds). I thought it was stupid to think these adventurers were NOT fed. and some how cleaned up. the women (& man) sure didnt look dirty after living in some what the same clothes for 28 days! & that one women had her hair nicely braided. IF I were that hungry and cold, I dont think I’d worry about my hair- I’d wear a hat! & did they boil water to wash their pretty faces with? at any rate the scenery was beautiful.  And after all it WAS on t.v. for entertainment. I was entertained.

Seanwins 06.10.09 | 1:24 AM ET

I love the show, which I think is totally different from Survivor.  The main difference seems to be that on Survivor people are making alliances and deceiving each other in order to win.  On this show everyone is trying to lift each other up and cooperate to get as many people home as possible. I think it’s pretty sweet, and there is a hell of a lot more survival going on than there is on Survivor.

clownbaby 06.10.09 | 11:41 AM ET

I really don’t see at all how this show “parodies” Christopher McCandless, McCandless went to one campsite, and stayed there, he also went into the wilderness without proper gear, heck he even refused extra gear from the person who dropped him off in the wilderness.  McCandless, went in to the wilderness recklessly without proper respect for the wild.  A simple map would have saved his life, there was a trolley crossing to get across the swollen river less than a mile from his camp.  The wilderness did not kill McCandless, Mcandless killed himself.  Either he was a fool, or had a death wish.  Its a great story and I admire his spirit, but it doesn’t change the fact that what he did was dangerous.  With the right gear and training, the show has shown you can survive for a month in the wild.  Also the show is nothing like survivor, there are no challenges, no one voted off, etc, instead this show is more of a chronicle of the journey 9 people trying to survive in Alaska for a month.

bds 06.10.09 | 4:06 PM ET

I started watching this just a few weeks ago. I caught a marathon of the past shows this past weekend and I really enjoyed it. I love being in the outdoors. What caught me was the “experiments” these people were put through. They were a bunch of normal people from populated areas, but when put to the test to find food and each contribute to the team it was very informative. I liked the commentary that explained what was happening to each team member and why they were feeling the way they were. It was entertaining and not for a prize but for self gratification. Its informative and entertaining for viewers.

gyrfalcon 06.10.09 | 4:59 PM ET

“I liked the commentary that explained what was happening to each team member and why they were feeling the way they were. It was entertaining and not for a prize but for self gratification. Its informative and entertaining for viewers.”

How much do you get paid to be a shill?  Do they have any openings for jaded people who hate crappy shows like this?

Seriously, who would says something like:  “It was entertaining and not for a prize but for self gratification. Its informative and entertaining for viewers”

Go to hell…

Ken L 06.10.09 | 5:14 PM ET

Never been paid a penny to watch any television. It appears that I am not the only one who enjoys watching this show for what it is: entertainment.  Again, to those who find nothing in this “crappy show,” quit watching and wasting your time.
Seriously, find something else to do. For me I will continue to watch this show.

gyrfalcon 06.10.09 | 6:23 PM ET

“The scenery could not get any better. I also enjoy the interaction that has developed with this group of people to date. No bickering, no jeolousy, sort of like “real people getting along.””

Yeah you’re a shill too.  Obviously you feel the need to defend this fake show. If you believe the pearl white smiles of the guests are “real people” you must come from the land of Hollywood.

Entertainment is not an excuse for falsehoods and lies.

Ken L 06.10.09 | 6:39 PM ET

As a native of Washington State, I like the scenery of the show as I worked in Alaska at a Salmon Cannery located about 60 miles by air away from everything for four summers.  Go online and check out Uganik Bay on Kodiak Island.  Takes some research to find decent photos. The show just brings back very good memories I have of Alaska.
Why the hostility?

Asel 06.11.09 | 6:18 PM ET

docgrizzly…..you’re absolutely right…..those people who had bad comments would n’t even survive for three days in that place…..no good food, cold, tired, stressed, limited things, and no good hygiene…but four volunteers made it…and history never change….that’s a good accomplishment that will be handed down or passed down from one generation to the next.  ***Asel

Asel 06.11.09 | 6:22 PM ET

No matter what people say those four vclunteers made good history for themselves that will be handed from genetation to generation, and nobody can erase that…the experience and accomplishment will be there and that will never change.  I am very impressed.  Asel

docgrizzly 06.11.09 | 7:01 PM ET

That was qute a thing for those four folks. Their sense of accomplishment was obvious! Congratulations to all four!! And to those who have been negative about this show, thank you for showing your feelings! But my mind has not been changed. The only thing I would have liked to change was for me to have been the fifth person in that party at the end of the trail! Ever do something so great in your own life? Then you know their feelings. Hope thay come back with the same foremat next year. There’s a lot of Alaska yet to explore! Hope I get picked to go! I play in the Colorado Rocky Mountains, hiking, fishing and hunting (mostly, but not always, with my camera) and I don’t really think Alaska is such a big step up from here! This was a true ADVENTURE! And ADVENTURE is what it is all about. ADVENTURE makes you alive!

Asel 06.11.09 | 8:36 PM ET

Adventure…....good and challenging adventures comes once in a lifetime sometimes…remember…you won’t be young for the rest of your life…so, if you have the chance…grab it and hold on tight…that might never happen again…    Asel

Asel 06.11.09 | 9:08 PM ET

docgrizzly….try it….learn from the volunteers” experience….have a lot of patience, be positive, a good team, extra careful, think (that’s very important),  share your skills, and keep your enegy if you can.  If you’re body got hurt…badly hurt…it will slow down your movements and will put you down.  Most of all, have a lot of patience….  Hope you’ll be picked to join next season.  Good luck!    ***Asel

JOHN 06.12.09 | 8:24 AM ET


gyrfalcon 06.12.09 | 11:00 AM ET

Wow the more negative comments I make, the more shills come out of the woodwork to protect the show.

Out of the Wild is a FARCE and FAKE…

Only an idiot would believe the pearl white smiles of it’s 90210 actors while they “struggle” to survive in the wilderness.

Ken L 06.12.09 | 12:19 PM ET

Well, from one “shill” and self proclaimed “idiot” I am not ashamed to say I enjoyed the show.  I would like to see a follow up and back story as the producers did to last years show so we could see how “phoney” the show “really was”. 

Now to Gyrfalcon’s comment on being fake, I agree, the last four who made it to the end had really good make up artists to make it look like they had lost a lot of weight.  Man, what they can do with photoshop techniques these days.  I sure he will want to tune in this coming Fall make sure to watch the phoney mountain climbers as they “fake” it up Mount Everestt on “Everest: Beyond the Limit.”  The Discovery show sure is funny. Also, I am sure that on last week’s Deadliest Catch, the crew on Captain’s Keith’s boat really did not break any ribs or get their faces smashed in the crap pots.  Just fakery to sell a show.

Look forward to next year.

Thanks to all for the amusing comments.  Especially the haters.

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