Greg Dixon 's Opinion

Greg Dixon is deputy editor of Canvas.

A sceptical eye on Bear in our bush

A Bear in our woods. Photo / Supplied
A Bear in our woods. Photo / Supplied

Does Bear Grylls shit in the woods?

I only ask because this week the pint-sized action man was down in the South Island for the first episode of the new season Man vs Wild (Wednesdays, 8.30pm, Discovery) and, well, if there's something we take a pretty dim view of here in New Zealand it's bloody tourists using our bush as some sort of picturesque dunny. Who do they think they are, etc etc?

Of course, we have no idea about what Mr Grylls actually does in this department. It is one of the great mysteries of a show which for seven series now has shown in minute detail the Great Survivor surviving everything Nature has to throw at him, with the exception of telling us what he does when Nature calls.

What we have actually seen over the years is Bear getting into the shit in the woods, at least apparently. I say apparently because I sat down to watch him gadding about in South Island armed with a fair degree of scepticism about how much trouble he could really get himself into on the Mainland. Anyone who has gone tramping in the New Zealand bush, and I have, knows that really the only enemy is the weather.

Also, there's didymo, though mostly it's the weather, which is responsible for engorged rivers, hypothermia and sodden boots.

But Bear likes to make life much more difficult than just having wet socks so that, if nothing else, it makes good TV. This would be why, instead of having a nice helicopter drop him off in Mt Aspiring National Park, he opted for a "low-level tactical insertion". And no, this isn't what it sounds like. It's parachuting out of a low flying aircraft.

Once on the ground, he made it even more difficult for himself by risking a limb by going down a narrow river gorge, risking a limb by jumping into pools, risking a limb by climbing up a high ravine and then having to rappel down a steep schist cliff to get off it, thus risking all limbs. Then he went for a walk in a swamp. In the rain.

All this, as always with Bear, was done in a mad rush with him swivelling his head about like a frightened sparrow. I can't think why: the best thing you can do on the Mainland is take your time. And no need to head-swivel: the only Bear in the bush was him. I have to say I thought his choice of route a bit suspect too. For example, while he was preparing to rappel the cliff, I'm sure I spotted an easier way down in the distance.

But like Magicians (Saturdays, 7.30pm, Prime), a new, celebrity magic game series hosted by Lenny Henry, Bear's show is a Show, one, like Magicians, featuring a bit of sleight of hand, a smidgen of misdirection and a whole lot of hamming it up for the cameras. I also wonder how his "survival" strategy of heading for the coastline on the other side of the Southern Alps gels with the standard tramping advice of staying put if you get into trouble.

Oh well. It's only television and it's nice that he came, saw, got rained on, killed a possum, ate it and declared it, more or less, horrible. Oh, and survived. Mission accomplished.


- NZ Herald

Greg Dixon

Greg Dixon is deputy editor of Canvas.

It has been said the only qualities essential for real success in journalism are a rat-like cunning, a plausible manner and a little literary ability. Despite having none of these things, Canvas deputy editor Greg Dixon has spent more than 20 years working as a journalist for the New Zealand Herald and North & South and Metro magazines. Although it has been rumoured that he embarked on his journalism career as the result of a lost bet, the truth is that although he was obsessed by the boy reporter Tintin as a child, he originally intended to be an accountant. Instead, after a long but at times spectacularly bad stint at university involving two different institutions, a year as a studio radio programme director and a still uncompleted degree, he fell into journalism, a decision his mother has only recently come to terms with. A graduate of the Auckland Institute of Technology (now AUT) journalism school, he was hired by the Herald on graduation in 1992 and spent the next eight years demonstrating little talent for daily news, some for television reviewing and a passable aptitude for long-form feature writing. Before returning to the Herald in 2008 to take up his present role, he spent three years as a freelance, three as a senior feature writer at Metro and one as a staff writer at North & South. As deputy editor of Canvas, his main responsibility is applauding the decisions of the editor, Michele Crawshaw. However he prefers to spend his time interviewing interesting people -- a career highlight was a confusing 15-minute phone interview with a stoned Anna Nicole Smith -- and pretending to understand what they're going on about. He has won awards for his writing and editing, but would have preferred a pay rise.

Read more by Greg Dixon

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