I admit it. At first glance (or, really, at the end of the first episode), I was not all that enamored with Beyond the Edge, the feel good Survivor-like clone on CBS that was hoping to capitalize on the Survivor lead-in. Yes, lead-in still matters on a broadcast network. And, no, the support from the granddaddy of reality competition series has not, unfortunately, paid off in terms of the traditional Nielsen ratings. But I am here to personally lobby for a second season of Beyond the Edge.
Unlike Survivor (or Big Brother, The Circle, The Challenge or any series of this nature), no one is voted out at the end of each episode of Beyond the Edge. No one is backstabbing or plotting against each other. And everyone, um, seems to like each other. “This is my new jungle family” seems to be the common sentiment between the celebrity competitors playing for their favorite charities. They are country singers Lauren Alaina and Craig Morgan, model Paulina Porizkova, Full House/Fuller House star Jodie Sweetin, Real Housewife Eboni K. Williams, The Bachelor’s Colton Underwood, NFL legends Ray Lewis and Mike Singletary, and NBA champion Metta World Peace.
Aside from Metta World Peace (formerly Metta Sandiford-Artest), who mirroring his Celebrity Big Brother experience, bailed out early from Beyond the Edge, these competitors define the honest competitive spirit.
“This was, for me, easily the hardest thing I’ve ever done physically and, in some ways, even emotionally,” said Ebony K. Williams at a virtual Zoom call with the press in March. “And I know, for me, I was on the struggle bus. But I really, truly, deeply struggled in this experience, and the reward for me was going through that struggle with these incredible people in the name of my charity.”
“The thing that I really took away from the experience was the fact that we are all so different with different accomplishments, different careers, different religions, different races, different everything,” noted Lauren Alaina. “And we had one common purpose, and that was to make a difference for people back home. As miserable as we were out there, we all had the same goal for different charities, obviously. So, we really rallied each other and pulled each other, quite literally sometimes, through it and it was life-changing.”
Instead of the perennial “Tribal Council” on Survivor, where seasoned host Jeff Probst knows how to control and capitalize on the often deceptive chaos, the participants on Beyond the Edge meet at camp a destination called “The Lantern,” where UFC, boxing and wrestling announcer Mauro Ranalo asks if anyone wants to leave. If they do, they go back to the campsite, ring a bell, pack up and go.
In each episode of Beyond the Edge, the winning team of two rack up added money for their charities. And, at the end, the top two top earners compete against each other in a two-hour installment on May 18. Looking ahead, I can already envision the comradery instead of the sometimes heated questioning by the jury to the finalists on Survivor.
Don’t get me wrong…Survivor is still “must see” for me (as are so many offerings with that often conflicting competitive formula). But what I find particularly refreshing about Beyond the Edge is the lack of any negatively. In today’s world, this team spirit is a welcome alternative. And, like any entry in this format, the “secret sauce” are the relationships we see building. I have enjoyed immensely getting to know these people.
“I’m not comparing what we did to combat here. I would never do that,” noted Craig Morgan. “But there are elements that take place in combat that take place out here, one, the harsh environment. And what it does, it strips away all of us of any stuff that’s up in front of us. All you see is what’s inside here, and that’s a beautiful thing because you get to see people for who and what they are. And I immediately just fell in love with every one of these people.”
Six episodes in, I share that same sentiment. And I do hope that CBS gives us a second season for viewers to find the worthy Beyond the Edge.