Maybe some of us have the cash to trek all the time, but the grim reality is that most of us fund our Rogue River trips and Mount Hood camping expeditions with jobs that keep us trapped in cubicles, far away from our dream destinations. But for one lucky person, Comcast SportsNet Northwest has the opportunity of a lifetime: The chance to host your very own TV outdoors show. Of course, an opportunity like this one isn’t just handed off to any old bozo. On Comcast’s new reality show, Wanted: Adventure Host, which premiered last week, hundreds of contestants compete in grueling physical trials to test their mettle. Every move was scrutinized by judges like Brian Wheeler of the Northwest School of Survival and “Danger” Ehren McGhehey, a McMinnville skateboarder and member of MTV’s Jackass crew. WW spoke to Wanted’s producer, Comcast SportsNet’s David Kamens, about the landscape of the Pacific Northwest and the reality behind reality TV.
WW: What makes this show different from other reality shows, like Amazing Race or any other show where people have to face survival situations?
David Kamens: First of all, it’s regional. Someone that’s vacationed or been around the Oregon landscape will recognize locations and maybe even some of the people. We had an open casting call and we put them all [the contestants] in one house during filming, but we don’t show them sleeping. There’s no hot tub and fridge full of alcohol; it ain’t Jersey Shore. We didn’t have to create drama. We just offered a job, and people ran through walls to win.
What kind of people showed up to try out for the show?
We had snowboarders, fishing guides, rock climbers. We weren’t low on housewives. We even had a mother-daughter tandem [team] that went through the process together. There was a comedian and an improv actor—they stood out. Of the hundreds that showed up for the general casting call—more than 600 people applied—the age range was about 19 to 62.... We filmed for 12 days. It started in Portland, in the Memorial Coliseum, and we filmed for the rest of the time in central Oregon.
What kind of characteristics were you looking for?
Well, we didn’t have an ideal host in mind, which is why we wanted to have a show that would identify that perfect host. Two of the people that came to mind were Rick Steves and Bear Grylls. Like any television host, we wanted someone with a commanding on-screen presence. It was a sum of presence, presentation, outdoors acumen and survival knowledge.
What kind of trials do the contestants have to face?
Hosting skills were part of it. We were interested to see how they reacted to the different situations we put them through, and what they were able to say in post-interviews. But we tested them on survival skills, navigation, marksmanship, kayaking. There was a trail run that wasn’t your average trail run. I can’t really get into the specifics.
Does the winner get to pitch what kind of show he or she wants to have?
The [winner’s] series is still in the development stage. It will take place outdoors and it will be filmed in the Northwest. We’ll tailor the series to the host somewhat—we want some input from them, but we haven’t made any commitments yet. The winner will be paid for their time, but they’re not going to be an employee of the channel. I don’t have a staff of hundreds here—it’s not a full-time job.
I’m one of those Portlanders who climbs, snowboards, trail runs and surfs. I considered applying for the show, but all that is stuff I do with friends, to escape. The last thing I want is people writing me emails and telling me I’m terrible at kayaking, which I am.
The characters from this area are so great, and so many people wanted this job so badly. So many people told us, without anyone asking, that this would be the best job they could think of. You’re right, a lot of people want their outdoors weekends to remain sacred. But these folks were interested in getting paid for what they love to do. I’m quite confident that you’re going to see a winner in this program living that up.
SEE IT: Wanted: Adventure Host airs on Comcast SportsNet 8 pm Monday nights.