'Wild Life'
Experience American wilderness with Stephen Colletti, James and Stuart Lafferty and Ian Shive.
(Credit: Ian Shive)

When you remove three Hollywood actors from their natural habitat and plant them in the middle of nowhere with a couple of backpacks and one nature photographer, some might think you have the ingredients for another exploitative reality-competition show during which narcissistic confessions are made, brawls break out and a sore loser is sent home at the end of every episode.

That is not the case with “Wild Life,” a fascinating new docuseries making its debut across the Interwebs this week. Actors Stephen Colletti, James Lafferty and Stuart Lafferty have teamed up with documentarian photographer and author Ian Shive (National Parks 2.0) to invite today’s ever-tweeting generation to drop the smartphones and experience the adventure that awaits in their own backyard – the American wilderness. Think of it as the National Geographic version of “Entourage.”

That said, it was somewhat fitting to rendezvous at the TreePeople Center for Community Forestry in Los Angeles’ beautiful Coldwater Canyon Park for a chat with these guys after their return from the Florida Everglades. Upon grabbing a space in the environmentally friendly “parking grove” (in my Prius, natch), we found a spot in the shade to discuss what it was like to go swimming with manatees, get up close and personal with a few alligators and perfect the art of building a campfire.

“We always talked about doing a show like this,” says the scruffy-faced Colletti. Reality junkies may remember him simply as Stephen from MTV’s original reality juggernaut, “Laguna Beach.”

In fact, when the idea started to be pitched around town, outsiders saw the concept in a totally different way.

“People wanted to turn it into [us] going out at night,” says Colletti. “They wanted to get everyone partying and take it down that [clichéd] reality route … and that’s not something we wanted to do. We always wanted to put on a travel show that’s, in a more respectable sense, documenting your travels, where you’re at, your landscape, your environment.”

Stuart Lafferty saw a void in the reality spectrum he thought they could fill.

“I don’t really see that many shows on television that really capture young audiences,” he says. “I haven’t seen travel shows that go after that demographic … Young people want to watch other young people travel and see what happens to them.”

And if they happen to pick up some cool facts about the natural wonders of these great United States, even better.

Shive, Colletti, and both Lafferty brothers all learned a few things during their adventures together. Colletti realized how technology dependent he and his peers actually are.

“It’s hard for people to detach themselves and actually get out in the world without a cell phone for three or four days,” he notes.

During their trip to the Florida marshlands, they endured a 36-hour period in which they were completely cut off from the world. James Lafferty saw it as a much-needed wake-up call. One of the things he discovered that he takes for granted? Taking showers.

“You learn to take care of yourself a little bit better,” he says during our phone conversation. “We have so many creature comforts available to us … but when you’re out there in the wild, your health is the most important thing.”

Part of those 36 hours also included navigating the narrow, alligator-infested channels of the Florida marshlands in canoes and using a map that wasn’t drawn to scale.

“We were five miles out in the middle of nowhere,” Colletti remembers.

Putting their isolation in perspective, Shive says, “The people who were closest to us were the people flying overhead in an airplane. That’s how far out we were.”

When asked if spending so much time with each other tested any nerves, James says there was never any dude vs. dude conflicts: “With a trip like this, you forget the bond that can be formed when you must rely on each other without anything around you. It’s such a great feeling, being surrounded by people you trust and love.”

Using social media and the Internet, these guys are now hoping to capture an audience and inspire a new generation of adventure travelers. Shive would like to see more people develop a humbled curiosity for the great outdoors.

“The outdoors have been so over-sensationalized with Man versus Nature scenarios,” he says. “I think there’s this fear of going outside for a lot of people … and it’s not like that at all.”

“Wild Life” airs on generationwild.tv.