How Bear Grylls survived getting fired from Man vs. Wild

You may have noticed that Bear Grylls' Man vs. Wild is no longer on the air. Grylls and the Discovery Channel called it quits in 2012 following a long partnership — or rather, the network fired the famed survivalist over a contractual dispute, according to The Hollywood Reporter. However, the name Bear Grylls is perhaps hotter than ever, with shows like Netflix's You vs. Wild and National Geographic's Hostile Planet premiering in 2019. With both series on the tips of everyone's tongues, he appears to be trending upward.

So, how did Grylls go from an untimely dismissal to having two of the most talked about shows on television? He certainly didn't hibernate, but he didn't necessarily alter his trajectory either. The truth is, this Brit has remained on a steady career track for many years, and if you thought Grylls was lost without the Discovery Channel, you quite frankly haven't been paying attention. We've watched this man survive some of the toughest conditions imaginable, but here's a rundown of how Bear Grylls survived getting fired from Man vs. Wild.

That contractual dispute

Reports first surfaced that Bear Grylls and the Discovery Channel were parting ways in 2012. After seven seasons and dozens of reality TV episodes, the US channel announced, "Due to a continuing contractual dispute with Bear Grylls, Discovery has terminated all current productions with him" (via The Hollywood Reporter). While this dismissal marked the end of Man vs. Wild, it's possible that this disagreement was over other unnamed productions. According to THR, "The network had multiple additional projects in development with Grylls." However, sources told the publication that "the network has allegedly been unable to get Grylls to participate in two unannounced projects he was contracted for." 

As for the TV personality himself, his representative told THR, "Unfortunately, Bear and Discovery have not been able to come to mutual agreement on new programming, and he disagrees with Discovery's decision to terminate current productions." Apart from pointing out the obvious — that Grylls wasn't let go for poor performance — this news not only indicated that Discovery hadn't tired of Grylls, but also that he may have been let go over being too in-demand.

His audience remained intact

Ever since rising to fame with Man vs. Wild, Grylls has built himself a healthy following — all in spite of his lack of PR training. In fact, he once told The New York Times in 2012 that he'd hired a publicist in order to avoid doing any PR and was "still always the scruffiest person at any meeting." However, it might just be this lack of polish that's made the TV star resonate with his fans. Grylls possesses an undeniable charm and charisma that other survivalists seem to lack. He has fun on his televised adventures without taking the seriousness out of the situations. "He doesn't have that sort of dour, he-man thing to him," Men's Journal editor Jason Fine said to The New York Times. "He admits fear when he's fearful. There was one episode where he was like, 'Wow, it's time for a courage pill.' The guy is pretty upfront about that stuff, and it's just more real. I think people relate to that, and not just dudes."

As soon as Grylls and Discovery split, he kept his fans in mind, knowing that if he managed to keep his fan base intact, he would continue to thrive in the future. "Bear has loved the Man vs. Wild journey," his rep stated to The Hollywood Reporter, adding, "[He] looks forward to producing further cutting-edge content again soon for his loyal audience."

He's a multi-medium superstar

Grylls may have gained his pop cultural clout through the success of Man vs. Wild, but the celebrity survivalist has since transcended the medium of television by leveraging his popularity and branching out into several other arenas. He's been the face of Degree deodorant, a spokesperson for Dockers, the inspiration for the Man vs. Wild video game, and the man behind the Bear Essentials survival mobile app and the Survival Run with Bear Grylls mobile game. He's also an accomplished author. Grylls' 2011 autobiography, Mud, Sweat and Tears, stayed at number one on the Sunday Times' bestseller list for an impressive 15 weeks. As of this writing, his latest book, Soul Fuel, will be released in July 2019. 

However, the Grylls empire has grown beyond even all of that. This multi-talent also launched a live arena tour of the UK and has given motivational and keynote speeches. Add in all the products that bear his name on his website, and you have a picture of just how marketable the man — who reportedly has a net worth of $20 million — has become.

He stayed in the spotlight

Bear Grylls didn't rest on his laurels after leaving the Discovery Channel. Instead, he quickly jumped over to NBC and launched his first major broadcast network show, 2012's Get Out Alive, according to Entertainment Weekly. By the following year, however, Grylls was back with Discovery. The dispute that ended their previous collaboration obviously wasn't enough to bar them from working together again, and this reunion kicked off with Escape From Hell. In a statement released to EW, Grylls called the series "an exciting evolution" of Man vs. Wild.

The next six years would see the survivalist accumulate a number of other on-screen credits. In 2014, Grylls hosted The Island with Bear Grylls, a UK survival competition on Channel 4 that would later be picked up Stateside by NBC (via Variety). He then kicked off the BBC's Bear Grylls: Breaking Point and two seasons of ITV's Bear Grylls: Mission Survive in 2015. While the latter was cancelled for low ratings, a spokesperson for the star told the Evening Standard that Grylls had several irons in the fire with the network. Grylls' longest-running gig, however, has been manning the reins on Running Wild with Bear Grylls since 2014. After four seasons with NBC, the popular show switched over to National Geographic in 2019, per The Hollywood Reporter. Of course, Grylls was already familiar with the latter network, having signed on to narrate Hostile Planet that same year. Phew! He's certainly a busy guy.

He lives the survival life

Despite what some of his critics might say about him, Grylls isn't just a celebrity survivalist for show. While he once acknowledged to Green Global Travel that there will always be "better survivalists" out there, the reality star lives the life he projects on television and has quite a few remarkable accomplishments under his belt. After passing the Special Air Service selection at 21 years of age, The Guardian notes that he became "the youngest Briton to climb Mount Everest" just two years later. Grylls also designed and opened survival camp locations around the world.

It's not all for camera either. Whenever he has down time, Grylls often travels to his family's privately owned island in the St. Tudwals Islands, Wales, which he told Kuoni has no water lines or electricity. It doesn't seem that this is a pure relaxation spot, as Grylls runs training missions out there — some involving his own children. The Telegraph reports that the dad of three stranded his then 11-year-old son, Jesse, "on a rocky outcrop off the North Wales coast" as part of training exercise in 2015. Grylls had arranged for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution to perform the rescue mission.

He's known around the world

Through his hit shows, Grylls has built a legion of fans in North America and the UK. While he's become one of the most recognizable stars in the Western world, the Grylls name has become synonymous with survival across the globe. For example, his Mud, Sweat, Tears book was voted "the most influential book in China" in 2012, according to the Financial Times. His somewhat surprising popularity in China even led to the creation of his own survival competition show there called Survivor Games in 2015 (via Real Screen). The Hollywood Reporter notes that Grylls also invited a few Chinese celebrities to join him on Running with Bear Grylls, including Yao Ming and Robin Li, the founder and CEO of the nation's largest search engine, Baidu.

Grylls' impact has been felt in the United Arab Emirates, as well. According to Arabian Business, the Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority agreed to open a Bear Grylls Survival Academy on the nation's highest mountain, Jebel Jais, in 2020.

Put that in writing

When Grylls isn't surviving on television, he's surviving in print … or at least his characters are. For over a decade, this multi-hyphenate has been putting his survival skills to ink through his children's book series, Mission Survival. These fictional novels follow the adventures of Beck Granger and offer survival-based tips to readers, which are integrated in creative and memorable ways. As of this writing, Grylls has published eight of these books, while also creating a spin-off collection called A Beck Granger Adventure. In 2017, Grylls started another children's book series, Bear Grylls Adventures, which focuses on exciting adventures set in different locales. 

In total, the prolific author has written more than 40 books, many of them for children and designed to kindle their adventurous spirits — and he's making bank, to boot. According to The Guardian, the Orion Publishing Group paid Grylls "a healthy seven-figure sum" to translate his skills into an adult adventure series. These Indiana Jones-like books in Grylls' Will Jaegar collection offer fictional stories that are partly inspired by his grandfather's belongings and involvement in World War II.

A positive role model

In an age where celebrity icons seem to be falling like rain, Bear Grylls has remained a very positive role model for kids and outdoors lovers alike. In 2009, he was named chief scout for the Scouts. According to The Guardian, Grylls became the youngest person to earn the honor at 34 years old, and ultimately "hoped to increase the 90,000 adult volunteers [by] offering more than 200 activities and to dispel the image of scouts simply singing around campfires in old-fashioned uniforms."

Grylls has also dedicated much of his time to charity over the course of his career. In 2003, he and three others completed a 3,500 mile North Atlantic expedition in an inflatable raft, all in the name of the Prince's Trust youth's charity. According to Reuters, he was later injured during a 2008 Antarctica expedition, which raised awareness for alternative energy sources, as well as money for the international Global Angels children's charity. Two years later, he returned to an inflatable boat, this time to cross the Northwest Passage (via CNN). Once again, this mission was completed to raise money for the same children's organization.

A man of few controversies

Grylls certainly isn't without his own faults or controversies. However, he's been quite effective in how he's dealt with these blemishes. When Born Survivor (the British title for Man vs. Wild) was criticized for being "faked" (via The Telegraph), Grylls took the heat. According to BBC News, he apologized for the show's misleading presentation, while the Channel 4 network vowed that future episodes would make clear that some scenes were dramatized. When The Island similarly caught fire for alleged fakery, Grylls again jumped to the forefront to discuss the show's methods, while defending the choices that were made in favor of entertainment (via the Mirror).

The TV host has also faced controversy in his personal life. After Grylls stranded his oldest son on a rocky Welsh coast as a small training mission, the Royal National Lifeboat Institution blasted the survivalist, stating to the Daily Post, "We did not appreciate that the exercise would involve him putting his son on 'Half Tide Rocks.'" However, this proud dad didn't take this criticism lying down, even after a since-deleted photo of the moment received backlash on Twitter. "I remain defiantly determined to provide my own children with opportunities to discover the world, as well as their own natural talents," he fired back unapologetically in a piece written for The Times. "I am determined to stand beside them on that journey. And yes, it can be dangerous."

You vs. Wild

Following the release of Netflix's Black Mirror spin-off, Bandersnatch, in early 2019, the streaming network decided to capitalize on its success through more interactive TV. "It's a huge hit here in India, it's a huge hit around the world," Vice President of Product Todd Yellin said at the time (via Variety), adding, "We realized, wow, interactive storytelling is something we want to bet more on." This led to the creation of You vs. Wild, an interactive show in which the viewers make survival decisions for one Bear Grylls. The survivalist expressed his excitement about the series in a statement to the publication, saying, "I'm so proud to deliver this first-of-its-kind live-action interactive series, really giving viewers an all access pass to explore the world and its landscapes in my boots. The stakes are high in this one!"

Landing this cutting-edge opportunity may seem like an unheralded success for Grylls, but the global superstar might just be the perfect frontman for an interactive and international show like this … but more on this below. Despite the fact that much of the discussion surrounding You vs. Wild has taken a satirical yet somewhat morbid turn about Grylls' lack of death options in the survival show, it appears to be creating quite the buzz.

It had to be him

You might have been surprised to see Grylls get one of the earliest interactive shows on television, but You vs. Wild has been a long time coming. After all, when author Edward Packer created the concept of the "Choose Your Own Adventure" books in 1969, he did so with The Adventures of You on Sugar Cane Island, a story that challenged readers to survive the island's many dangers. So, a survival show was bound to be one of the early adopters of interactive TV.

As for Grylls' involvement, he's been showing us — the people at home — how to survive dangerous missions for his entire career. In addition to the star's multiple TV shows, books, and survival academy, a British theme park built in his name even allowed fans to simulate his feats. Really, it was the next logical step to put the audience in charge of Grylls' survival, testing how well our training has paid off. If "interactive shows are the (terrifying) future of television," as GQ put it, then survival shows are the early surfboards helping us to ride this wave. In the not-so-distant future, we may just look back at You vs. Wild and scoff at how basic it was. But with survival decisions being the most interactive television experiences we have, as of this writing, who better than the world's most famous survivalist to help us navigate those choices?

His survival skills are out of this world

Ever since he began his television career, Bear Grylls has survived (or demonstrated how we can survive) some of the world's harshest terrains. He's been around the globe and back again, and has left no climate or environment on Earth untamed. Perhaps this is why he was apparently looking for more difficult challenges to test out his survival skills … in space?

According to The Sun, Grylls was set to select a team of five lucky Scouts through a series of tests and trials to join him for a camping trip at the International Space Station in 2021. Naturally, the mission would be filmed as the Scouts spent at least two weeks at the station, where they would head out onto the outer shell and camp in "specially developed tents and sealed sleeping bags pumped with oxygen" for 12 hours. "The Explorer Scouts will need to show the true spirit of Scouting — resilience, teamwork and resourcefulness — if they are to pass the intensive selection process," Grylls reportedly told the media outlet. "But by reaching for the stars, we hope to prove that Scouts truly can do anything." 

While camping in space sounds, well, out of this world cool, this news came out on April 1, 2019 … so we're pretty sure it's just a case of April Fools. Still, we can't wait to see what Bear Grylls does next!