Adventure TV staples Mark Burnett and Bear Grylls are partnering to bring back Eco-Challenge, the endurance race series that launched Burnett’s reality TV career and served as a precursor to his hit Survivor. The plan is for the new incarnation from Burnett-led MGM Television to select a TV partner and location with an eye on a late 2019 production start.
The original series created by Burnett ran 10 editions over eight years beginning in 1995 on MTV. Later editions — in locales from Australia and Morocco to Patagonia, Borneo, Canada, New Zealand and Fiji — aired on ESPN and Discovery Channel, with the 1996 British Columbia race winning Burnett his first Emmy. The race aired on USA Network until 2002.
“The most asked question in my entire career is ‘Will you ever bring back Eco-Challenge? and I’d always known we needed the correct authentic figure head to lead us forward effectively,” said Burnett, whose credits also include The Apprentice, The Voice and Shark Tank. “Bear Grylls is that leader. He’s tough, he’s smart and he’s extremely capable in both the wilderness and in the boardroom. He’s my friend and I couldn’t be happier and I’d gladly follow him.”
The competition often featured more than 50 international teams of four racing 24 hours a day over a rugged 300-mile course featuring the likes of mountaineering, horseback riding, sea kayaking, mountain biking, whitewater rafting, camel riding and canyoneering. Competitors had to carry out all trash, including solid human waste. If any team member quit, the entire team was disqualified.
“Eco-Challenge is not a reality series, it’s a real expedition with a stop watch. It’s extremely difficult and you will suffer,” said Burnett and Grylls. “If you don’t want to suffer, don’t apply.”
Burnett and Grylls will executive produce the new Eco-Challenge with Grylls’ producing partner Delbert Shoopman. Burnett’s production team of Lisa Hennessy, Scott Flavelle and Kevin Hodder are also expected to join.
“Eco-Challenge is the ultimate global survival-adventure race, against the elements, against the clock, and against some of the greatest extreme athletes the world has ever seen,” said Grylls, who starred on Discovery’s Man Vs. Wild and toplines NBC’s adventure series Running Wild. “I am so proud to have partnered with MGM Television & the legendary Mark Burnett to bring this incredible adventure series to the world. This is raw human endeavor at its most powerful.”