Mark contends he’s doing the folks a favour. “I have an obligation to the contestants to give them a real adventure and not a pretend adventure. If it wasn’t a real adventure, they would have been cheated,” says Mark, himself a thrill-seeker who joined the British military at age 17 and served as a paratrooper.

In Expedition Impossible, debuting on Tuesday on M-Net at 6pm, the teams struggle to be the first to conquer sun-baked dunes, snowy mountains and fast-moving rivers to win bragging rights, a car and $50 000 each.

Among them: Grandpa’s Warriors, with a 69-year-old Illinois man, his son and granddaughter; Latin Persuasion, three New York women; The Country Boys, long-time friends from Mississippi; No Limits, a blind motivational speaker and writer; and a team of three former NFL players.

Mark, whose early series included Eco Challenge and its variations and who has created 22 editions of Survivor – as well as the corporate jungle scrum The Apprentice – said he’s confident in his production team’s ability to maximise both thrills and safety.

Expedition Impossible employed 400 crew and cameramen, experienced mountain guides and others to protect the contestants, who were required to demonstrate basic skills in river-rafting, mountain climbing and horsemanship before filming, Mark explained.

No Arabian stallions, camels or people (aside from minor scrapes and scratches) were hurt during filming of the 10 episodes.

The show’s host is Dave Salmoni (“adventurer, zoologist, big cat trainer and all-round risk-taker”, according to a network release).

Among other tests, the teams face extreme weather, balky animals and the bemused, culture-clash observation of Moroccans.

“Why are their socks so high?” a puzzled Berber tribesman asks, eyeing a fashion-conscious trio’s brightly coloured knee-highs, worn despite a sizzling day.

In another scene, a team of female contestants bicker at a watering hole as a group of Berber men watch, and one is asked for his thoughts. His translated response, according to Mark: “I wouldn’t have them for my wife.”

For contestants, he wanted to provide a shot at derring-do as well as a chance to realise the power of camaraderie. For viewers, Mark’s goal was to create an “Indiana Jones experience” with vicarious thrills. Or better yet, prompt couch potatoes to try making a real-world splash. “My dream is that this takes off and inspires millions of Americans to get out and do something.”

He has a track record at home. Before he and actress Roma Downey (Touched by an Angel) married in 2007, her idea of adventure was “opening the window at the Four Seasons hotel”, Mark said – and he didn’t make it sound like a punch line.

Roma, whose honeymoon with Mark was a desert camping trip, is now preparing to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. – Reuters