I watch television survival shows for the same reason. The first one I remember was Bear Grylls.
I watched it and while it was sometimes interesting, I always thought that his actions were pretty extreme. Some of the things he did, like eating rotten carrion and drinking his own urine at every opportunity, seemed to be more oriented towards his audience than reality. He traveled with a massive camera and support crew to back him up and film the show. I heard rumors that he was faking a lot of his production, but I didn't believe them. Finally a fellow emailed me and gave me a specific incident that was supposed to be faked. I wrote the the Discovery Channel, and they sent me back a form letter saying ,in effect, that some of Bear's activities were in fact faked. The famous "I spent the night in this tree" when he really stayed in hotel that night was the one I specifically remember. The letter said the Discovery Channel was sorry that there had been "misunderstandings" about the issue and that next season all of Bear's programs would be "realistic and true to the presentation." Maybe they were, but I don't know because I never watched his show again.
Dual Survival has gone three seasons and I'm not sure if it will be back. I like Cody Lundin. I've read his books, and read about him in other books written by survivalists who went to his school in Arizona. He's a straight forward person, with no pretensions. Lundin grew up on a farm way out in the plains, did time for drugs, got his act together and has prospered as a lecturer, author, and actor. He makes no claim that his Dual Survival Shows are entirely authentic. He famously responded to a question about the reality of the program in an interview where he said "hey, man. It's television." The first two seasons were with Dave Canterbury, who fell from grace when it turned out that his military career had not been exactly what he had portrayed it to be. Rumor control had it that Canterbury's disappearance was more to do with not being able to get along with Lundin than any real discrepancies between his resume and his service record. The third season featured another special forces type, whose name I don't remember now. This was a good show, filmed in beautiful locations, and you could learn from it. However, the producers felt that it would be more riveting if the two partners constantly disparaged each other and denigrated their partners skills. That practice got on my nerves and sometimes I almost turned the show off in exasperation.
Discovery Channel is currently running Naked and Afraid. The basic premise, bizarre as it is, involves taking a man and a woman with survival skills, who do not know each other, and dumping them off in some of the worlds worst terrain. They are allowed one implement each, and no clothing. Maybe the producers thought making the protagonists be naked would add to the prurient attraction and draw more viewers. If so, they didn't take into account how unattractive nudity is when people are filthy, sweaty, covered with bug bites, and sun burned all to the devil. That adds little to the show other than to emphasize that these folks are well and truly ill equipped. The camera crew follows them around by day. At night they film themselves with hand held cameras. I'll say this for the program, the teams don't always survive their 21 day ordeal. People get hurt, or get sick, and it's not drama scripted in for the viewers.
Personally, I don't think I will learn much from this. I've been in the jungle, in the Philippines, and I hated it. I was out there with good people I knew, well equipped, with a massive support system behind me. I was with well trained, highly motivated individuals. I knew what I was doing, what the point of the evolution was, and never doubted I'd make it through. These poor people in this show are just dumped off with nothing, with someone they don't know, and they don't even have a pair of shoes. Now, at age 60, I wouldn't go back in the jungle for any amount of money even if I was equipped to the teeth. I can't imagine doing it like these people on Naked and Afraid are. Considering the episodes I've seen, I'd have to say the women have done better than the men. The men, with one exception, have all been class A personalities. Aggressive, competitive, over achievers. They seem to get mad easily when things don't go according to plan, and some of them have taken it out on their female partners when it wasn't anything to do with the women at all. I can remember fussing at my wife sometimes when something I was doing or working on wasn't going right, and seeing these guys act this way brought back some guilty memories. Maybe it's just a masculine trait. The women seem calmer and better able to cope with disappointment. That's not to say they have an easy time out there, far from it. They just don't show it as much.
Well, some of these shows are better than others. I learned more from Les Stroud's shows than any of the rest of them. But they are all useful, in their way. I don't plan on being stranded in some hellish wilderness but you never know what's down the road.