STEVEN RINELLA: THE FATHER WITHIN
Steven Rinella knows how to apologize. My phone dings in my pocket. It’s the ding of an e-mail. They don’t normally come this late, 9:30 on a Wednesday night. It’s out of place, incongruous. I check it and there it is, an e-mail from Rinella. It’s a good apology. To the point. A little self-effacing. He apologizes for missing our interview. He doesn’t make excuses. He just missed it. He recommends another time, offers to call me when it’s good for me. Only here’s the thing – we never actually firmed up a time to talk. He’s apologizing for missing an interview I had recommended, but he had not confirmed.
On his TV show, The Wild Within on Travel Channel, Rinella extols the virtues of the hunter-gatherer lifestyle. He is carnivore incarnate, a sort of wandering philosopher, armed to the teeth and in search of meat to fill the chest freezer he keeps in the Brooklyn brownstone he shares with his wife and son. Through eight episodes in its premier season, the show follows Rinella around the world in search of wild protein. He scoffs when you compare The Wild Within to other television survival shows, looks down on them in a way. He calls them pre-produced obstacle courses engineered weeks in advance for an athletic host in the name of confronting big bad Mother Nature. He can’t understand the things those other guys do; things no self-respecting outdoorsman would ever try. He also can’t seem to understand why the wild is painted as an evil villain. For a kid born and raised in Western Michigan, Rinella has never thought of being in the woods, on a mountain, in the jungle or anywhere else in the outdoors as being something so horrific as to merit escape.
So, if The Wild Within isn’t a survival show, what is it? In the promos that ran incessantly on Travel leading up to the show’s premier, Rinella likens it to a throwback to a time when a man was only as good as the food he could provide, when hunting and survival were matters of every day living. The implication is that other shows – hunting, survival or otherwise – make being outside something to be feared, hunting for food akin to that scene in Indiana Jones and Temple of Doom when the girl was presented with monkey brain and snake embryos for dinner. Shock value. Strange, foreign and other worldly. Rinella doesn’t see it that way. MORE