'Running Wild with Bear Grylls' review: Zac Efron, other celebs put to the test

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Bear Grylls in NBC's

Bear Grylls in NBC's "Running Wild With Bear Grylls." President Obama will appear on his program -- in a telecast to air later this year. Photo Credit: BGV - Delbert Shoopman/NBC / NBC

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REVIEW

THE SHOW "Running Wild With Bear Grylls"

WHEN | WHERE Premieres Monday night at 8 on NBC/4

WHAT IT'S ABOUT TV's pre-eminent survivalist, Bear Grylls, returns to prime time in this limited, one-hour series in which he takes celebrities -- Zac Efron, Ben Stiller, Channing Tatum, Deion Sanders, Tom Arnold and "Today"/MSNBC anchor Tamron Hall -- on wilderness survival trips where each discovers his or her Inner Bear. Tonight, Grylls takes Efron to the Catskills, where worms and bird eggs are on the menu. Efron unloads stories about his life and troubles as a celeb while Grylls listens, nods and tells Efron to smell roadkill to determine whether it's edible.

MY SAY Efron stars in a major Universal release this summer ("Neighbors") and far be it from me to suggest that Grylls' romp in the woods with him is a particularly well-disguised exercise in corporate logrolling. Efron needed to get out, clear his head, escape the paps and explore his gastronomical limitations. Whom better to do this with than Grylls?

On paper, as opposed to on-screen, this particular outing does seem a bit un-Grylls-like, however. The Catskills? Really? Were the boys planning to hit the spa at Kutsher's after they were done? The Poconos too challenging?

In fact, as anyone who knows the Catskills knows, its an absolutely beautiful and wild place, and only a couple hours' drive from midtown. Why not the Catskills?

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Efron and Grylls -- who manages to be personable in all his series, even when he's rappelling down an ice cliff in the Antarctic while being pursued by a mob of angry emperor penguins -- do, in fact, make a good team, and a fun one to hang out with for an hour, too.

They even convey a possibly unintentional but definitely intriguing bromantic vibe. Efron is "the fittest, most good-looking dude you'll ever meet," says Grylls wistfully, as both strip off their shirts and slide shoulder-to-shoulder down a rope under a roaring waterfall.

Spoiler alert: Efron survives a night in the woods with Grylls and has this reasonably harmless and occasionally amusing prime-time hour as proof.

Scenery's nice, too.

BOTTOM LINE Why is Efron running around the Catskills with Grylls? Watch for answers.

@Newsday

GRADE B+

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