Guilty Pleasures: Survivorman Bigfoot

Survivorman Bigfoot with Les StroudI really hate to include Survivorman Bigfoot in my guilty pleasures category, mainly because unlike the other shows that I have lumped into this category, Survivorman Bigfoot is actually very well-done. The concept is simple: survival expert Les Stroud strikes out into the wilderness, sometimes accompanied by local Bigfoot researchers, in order to find proof of the elusive Sasquatch. This is a special version of Stroud’s main showSurvivorman, in which he braves 7 days in the wilderness alone with only small assortment of items to help him survive. Les is also his own cameraman, filming himself and his survival experiences without the use of a camera crew. Survivorman is a great show in its own right, and makes Bear Grylls look like a pansy. But I digress…

I’ve been watching Survivorman for years, and I’d always wondered if Les had encountered anything strange in his travels, either while filming Survivorman, or on any of his other adventures. Well, it turns out that yes, indeed he has had some inexplicable experiences out in the bush. On a radio interview back in 2011, Les details one of (apparently) two possible experiences with the hairy cryptid. Les doesn’t claim that he saw a Bigfoot, only that he heard something that sounded and behaved ape-like, which would be very odd indeed in Alaska. He has apparently had some other odd experiences, none of them explicitly Bigfoot-related, but once you start hearing the stories, it comes down to things that only humans or Sasquatch would do, and for humans to do them would be very odd indeed. Things like placing branches on trees that have been cut down due to lumber operations, or rearranging trinkets left in the woods, or the random uprooted tree that has been placed back in the ground. Upside down. Anyway, due to these experiences, Les decided to do some special episodes of Survivorman, in which he searches for Bigfoot. The resulting shows, while not perfect, make for one of the better paranormal viewing experiences in many, many years.

First things first: Les is a skeptic. Sure, he is open to the possibility that Bigfoot might exist, but he’s very critical in his thinking. Right there, we have a different perspective than most of the other shows on TV right now. Les isn’t afraid to say when something is most likely caused by a bear, or some other animal, or even due to human meddling or hoaxing. He is a skeptic that is looking for proof to sway him into thinking otherwise, and not a believer who sees every little thing as proof so that it confirms his preexisting notions. He can sometimes get caught up in the moment, and I believe this is usually more due to the company he is keeping in certain episodes (more on this in a bit), but overall he’s very level-headed when approaching his research.

For Survivorman Bigfoot, Les is rarely on his own, but at the same time, he keeps his group small. Sometimes he ventures out alone, with just his equipment, hoping to minimize the human presence in the wilderness. Sometimes he takes along another Bigfoot researcher, or another cameraman to help him document what he finds. But overall, there’s never more than 2 or 3 people in his group. Compare this to Finding Bigfoot, where you have 4 researchers, sometimes a local witness, plus all the different cameramen and production crew trampling through the woods, and it becomes easy to see why they never actually find Bigfoot.

Les is very good about bringing in expert help on the subject. Dr. Jeff Meldrum has appeared on the show a number of times, as has Dr. John Bindernagle. But he also brings in other researchers who are a little less mainstream, and for the final episode (hopefully just for the season), he brought in two researchers who believed that Sasquatch was more of a spiritual being than a surviving prehistoric ape. While I don’t necessarily believe in some of the more esoteric theories on Bigfoot, it is interesting to see different approaches to Bigfoot hunting.

But in many ways, Les is his own best expert. Sure, it’s great to get the opinions of people who have been Bigfoot hunting for years, but at the same time, Les is an experienced woodsman, and not just for a certain area. He has survived in deserts, rain forests, tundras, and tropical islands. Les has learned to not only exist in nature, but to survive in it with very little assistance. He brings a unique perspective, and is the furthest thing from an armchair skeptic as you can get. Better than perhaps anyone else, Les knows the sounds that should be in the woods at night. He knows what can make certain kinds of tracks. And because of this, he brings a certain level of credibility to his own show in that he’s an expert at surviving in the wild, just as a Sasquatch would have to.

So why is Survivorman Bigfoot not a perfect show? Well, I have one major gripe about it, and one more minor. On the minor side is the narration. Les sounds like he’s half asleep, or giving a eulogy. It’s a huge departure from his usual upbeat narration, and I’m not sure why he’s striking such a somber, sullen tone for these narrations. It can be jarring, and sort of takes me out of the moment. The major gripe can be summed up in two words: Todd Standing.

Todd Standing Survivorman Bigfoot
So…yeah.

For the uninitiated, Todd Standing is a very controversial figure in an already controversial field. Todd has lots of video and audio “evidence” that he tries to peddle to the Bigfoot community, and most of it is laughable at best. Photos of Sasquatch faces that look like Chewbacca Halloween mask knockoffs. Videos of a Bigfoot that looks like a stuffed animal, especially since it never blinks. Lots of video shot in the dark with him yelling at something that is yelling at him. I’m not even saying that Todd has never had a Bigfoot experience. But most of his stuff is highly questionable. He sees everything in the woods, no matter how mundane, as being somehow Bigfoot.

Les himself mentions Todd’s overzealousness and questionable evidence in a few of thr episodes. And tha’s what bothers me most about the show. Why, of all the people Les could be utilizing, does he stick with Todd Standing, and use him over and over again? Les initially did two special episodes of Survivorman dealing with Bigfoot before this 6-episode run of Survivorman Bigfoot. He used Todd in those episodes, caught a lot of flack for it, and yet still brought him back. It just puzzles me, especially when there are plenty of other, more level-headed researchers out there who should have been given a voice.

I must say, the last episode of this run was by far the best. I won’t spoil anything, but a few things happen that made even this skeptic wonder. The hair on the back of my neck was standing up. Again, the credibility of Mr. Stroud plays a huge part in believing what occurs, but it’s still pretty spine chilling.

Suffice it to say, this is my new favorite show and (somewhat) guilty pleasure. It’s much better to watch with my son than Mountain Monsters, in that it shows a more realistic approach to searching for Sasquatch, and has far fewer utterances of “git ‘er done” and “sonofabitch!” I still love Finding Bigfoot for all its goofiness, but Survivorman Bigfoot is great for those times when you need something a bit more refined.

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