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Alaskan Survival: It's Race To Survive vs Outlast For The Outdoor TV Championship Belt

Today on THE ROCK FIGHT (an outdoor podcast that aims for the head) we're breaking down two recently released Alaskan survival TV shows to see who takes home the outdoor pop culture championship belt and help you decide what to watch while eating your Thanksgiving leftovers. Who will win Race to Survive or Outlast?

Building off of the success of shows like Eco-Challenge, Survivor, Alone and Naked & Afraid we have two new entrants into the survival TV Rock Fight: Netflix's Outlast and Peacock's Race to Survive.

Both shows take place in Alaska and have survival elements but that is where the similarities end. So which show should you cue up during your Thanksgiving holiday? Listen to find out.

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Welcome to the rock fight where we speak our truth, slay sacred cows and sometimes agree to disagree. This is an outdoor podcast that aims for the head. I’m Colin True and today on the show we’re dipping back into the outdoor pop culture well and talking about two shows that came out this year, Race To Survive and Outlast both of which had contestants surviving in Alaska but with two wildly different approaches. Which of these two shows is the one to watch? Keep listening to find out.

Before I get to that though, I want to thank you for clicking play on this episode and if you could take our relationship one little step further and click the follow button on the app where you’re listening and oh, maybe also leave a 5 star rating and a review, I know it’s kinda gross and cringey to ask that, you hear it all the time but by doing so it brings visibility to the show so thank you for even considering that and for listening to this podcast. Alright let’s get into it.

Survival TV is in the midst of a long lasting moment. Starting with the reality TV juggernaut SURVIVOR, we then got shows like Bear Grylls’ Man vs Wild and Les Stroud's Survivor Man which then lead to ALONE and NAKED AND AFRAID building off of what made those others shows interesting while also cracking the code of how to make these shows completely bingeable.

I found ALONE about the time that we were starting to emerge from the pandemic based on hearing folks talk about the show which they had discovered during lockdown. If you’re not familiar with the show, they take 10 contestants to a remote wilderness area and drop each of them in a secluded location where they have to live and survive ALONE until there is only one contestant left. The winner gets $500,000, which went to $1m in later seasons.

This show has been around since 2015 and there is just something about the simplicity of plopping a person in the woods and telling them to figure it out and seeing how things unfold. And it’s also fun to see the talent improve over the years with the first season featuring some contestants with no outdoor or survival skills who think they can manage and more recent seasons featuring enthusiasts who live as survivalists as a choice on a daily basis.

Coming out 2013, Naked & Afraid is equally as intriguing but not because you get to watch experts put themselves to the test but because it’s more of a spectacle. There is no prize money for their contestants who are put into the backcountry naked and with a partner and told to survive for 21 days. This show frustrates the hell out of me. First because I don’t know what the attraction would be to plod around naked outside for 3 weeks with no prize at the end. But also it’s just silly. The novelty of the nakedness wears off really quickly and it just doesn’t hold the same attraction as ALONE does.

But in 2023 we'd have two new entrants into the survival tv sweepstakes. RACE TO SURVIVE ALASKA and OUTLAST. Both of which are vastly more entertaining then ALONE or NAKED AND AFRAID even though they themselves are vastly different shows.

I found Race to Survive First. The show is streaming on Peacock and when I watched the trailer I was immediately transported back to the days of the Eco Challenge. If you’re unfamiliar from 1995 - 2002 every year we got a new season of the epic Eco Challenge, a week or so long adventure race in an exotic location featuring teams of four from all over the world. The beauty of an adventure race is while there is a lot of basic endurance sport activity like running, paddling, climbing or biking, the teams have to navigate using a map and compass to get to a series of checkpoints on their way to the finish line. So you have the opportunity for plenty of drama to play out when tired and irritable teams make a navigation error deep into the night.

Race to Survive taps into this even if most of the action is on foot. The show features 8 teams of 2 that have to use navigation to reach a crate full of medals. And the last team to arrive will find themselves without a finisher medal and be disqualified. Each team has a camera person embedded with them so you can get their running commentary and these races go on until only one team remains.

But here’s the curve ball that makes this show different. After a leg of the race is completed and a team has been DQ’d, the remaining teams have to enter a multi day survivor camp where they have set up shop, make fire, find food and that’s how they recharge for the next leg of the race. So if you’re good at racing and bad at the survival elements you may run out of gas. But you can also be just fast enough to stay alive during the race and have an advantage if you can do all the survival stuff really well.

On the flipside, OUTLAST is more straightforward as it’s basically ALONE but done in teams. 16 players, also in Alaska, split into four camps with a $1m prize on the line. The caveat being that this is a last team standing competition with the only way to win is you have to be on a team at the end. It doesn’t have to be the team you started on but you can’t win as a solo player. This show gets bonkers as people figure out there are no rules so some start sabotaging others and trying to form alliances and working to get others to quit. It’s a beautiful trainwreck where at times you don’t feel good about watching it but you also know that you’re not going to quit the show either.

So which of these Alaskan survival shows is worth your time if you’re only going to watch one? Well that really depends on what you like in a reality TV show. If you’re a SURVIVOR or ALONE person OUTLAST is probably what you’re looking for. If you lean more towards The Amazing Race or The Real World/Road Rules Challenge Race To Survive is probably your best bet.

Both shows have their upsides. I think any competition that’s team based is better than head to head; it’s just more fun. You get both the competing teams and then the in-team dynamics for extra drama. And both shows have that going for them.

The way these shows are edited is crucial because the in-team drama is often deployed to keep the viewer on their toes. In Race to Survive we got a father/son team that displayed a classic relationship of the older dad seeing his son as a kid who should listen to his fatherly wisdom with nothing but acceptance and respect. In OUTLAST we got Jill, an overbearing leader on one of the teams with zero self awareness who could justify any decision she made no matter how good, bad or ugly it actually was. And let’s be honest, the villains are the reason we stick with these shows. I made it to the end of OUTLAST absolutely dreading the notion that Jill could actually win but also wanting her to be onscreen more than anyone else.

The survival aspect being included in both shows is a check for both. I wish that on Race to Survive we had gotten more time in their survival camps. But I liked the integration of survival into both shows.

My least favorite part of Race to Survive was the incredibly over the top and hyperbolic narrator. There is someone doing a voiceover to keep the audience informed of what’s happening with the competing teams and for this guy? Nothing could be just what it was or is. It was all “the most dangerous or the biggest or scariest or whatever…” and I guess they did that for those who don’t go outdoors on a more regular basis, but it definitely got under my skin.

For Outlast, the whole felt a little overly curated? Some of the conflicts that arose felt like maybe the production team had a hand in it? I could be wrong, but there were some super convenient moments. Also the season ends with a Race To Survive-esque foot race between the last two teams to a bag that contains their prize. And it definitely had that vibe of ‘well, we don’t be out here doing this anymore, how can we wrap this up quickly?’ Because if they had truly let the two teams outlast each other ALONE style that would have been more fun. I don’t know, maybe one of the camera operators had to pick up their kid from school or something.

Outlast has been renewed for a season 2, which I find interesting considering the fan reviews have been pretty negative. On Rotten Tomatoes the show has an 80% critics score and a dismal 16% audience score. The show does dance on that line between good fun and totally gross. Contestants steal from each other and destroy each other's camps. But it’s nothing that I feel like couldn’t be fixed for season 2 which we are getting.

Race to Survive has not been renewed for a season 2, and on Rotten Tomatoes is doing much better with the fans than Outlast, carrying a 94% audience score.

The truth is that I actually had a good time watching both shows and each episode ended with me being invested in starting the next one to see what happens next. Was there a bit of old school Roman Coliseum battle going on in Outlast that got my blood lust going, yeah. And ultimately that’s why I’d recommend Race to Survive over Outlast. The race format was great and the whole thing felt a little more thought through than Outlast. Both shows could probably do a better job from a casting point of view but that is always a challenge of a new reality show.

Yeah so, if you are looking for some time to kill on the couch as we head into a holiday week, boot up Race to Survive on Peacock.


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