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Bear Grylls and Mark Burnett Team to Revive ‘Eco-Challenge’ Race Franchise

Adventurer Bear Grylls and producer Mark Burnett have teamed to revive the “Eco-Challenge” race franchise that launched Burnett’s career in unscripted TV.

Grylls will host and executive produce with Burnett for MGM Television a new edition of the 1990s adventure series. “Eco-Challenge” sends more than 50 teams out on a 300-mile adventure course that encompasses mountaineering, horseback riding, sea kayaking, mountain biking, whitewater rafting, camel riding and more. Each team has four members, two men and two women.

Burnett, who is also president of MGM Television and Digital, created “Eco-Challenge” in 1992 when he was at the outset of his TV career. The first race was held in Utah in 1995. The series ran for 10 cycles over eight years on Discovery Channel and USA Network. It was the precursor to Burnett’s enduring reality franchise, CBS’ “Survivor.”

MGM TV is about to shop the revived “Eco-Challenge” to buyers. The hope is to begin production by the end of next year. Grylls is already in business with NBC on the primetime series “Running Wild with Bear Grylls.”

Burnett said he’s often asked about a revival of “Eco-Challenge.” Grylls was not part of the show’s original run but he has become a globally recognized survivalist and adventurer thanks to his long run on Discovery’s “Man Vs. Wild” and many other programs that have aired around the world. Burnett and Grylls are both veterans of British Army who speak the same language when it comes to derring-do TV.

I’d always known we needed the correct, authentic figurehead to lead us forward effectively. Bear Grylls is that leader,” Burnett said. “He’s tough, he’s smart and he’s extremely capable in both the wilderness and in the boardroom.”

Grylls said “Eco-Challenge’s” extreme course and environmental ethos — contestants are required to carry out all trash from the site of their challenges, including human waste — made it a renowned competition.

‘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,” Grylls said. “This is raw human endeavor at its most powerful.”

Grylls’ producing partner Delbert Shoopman will also executive produce “Eco-Challenge.” Burnett plans to bring back producers Lisa Hennessy, Scott Flavelle, and Kevin Hodder. 

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