What makes you switch off? I find EastEnders so utterly bleak. I just got back from Amsterdam, which is such a happy place; when I think of England it seems slightly angrier. I don’t know what comes first, us being unhappy or EastEnders.
So what puts you in a good mood? 24 Hours in A&E and the Educating… series. Often they’ve got sad storylines, but the everyday heroism of the people involved is spellbindingly uplifting. Channel 4 is doing a similar series set in an Ethiopian village and I can’t wait to see that.
In New Lives in the Wild you meet people who have relocated to remote locations. Are you tempted to escape the rat race? Absolutely. The show is like a giant, worldwide shopping trip for me where I’m looking for a new life for us. Whenever I leave home to film, my wife Marina gets terrified that I’m going to come back having bought a tiny plot of land in rural Alaska.
How has reality TV changed since you made your TV debut on Castaway in 2000? With something like 24 Hours… I totally believe that it’s an honest window into another world. But these days there’s non-reality TV – either scripted reality or something like I’m a Celebrity…, which I’ve always seen as a show about egos rather than a genuine insight into an environment.
Would you like to see Castaway revived? I would, but I think TV has lost its innocence. We all applied to be on that show for our own reasons, but the key was that no one did it to become famous. That’s changed now. Most people who go on TV have another motive.
Would you consider something like Strictly? I’ve been asked and it has appealed to me, but I really am a hopeless dancer. It’s also a popularity contest and I don’t have the volume of fans that EastEnders actors or pop stars do. If, in a couple of years, my kids [Ludo, five and Iona, three] beg me to do it then of course I would.
What are you watching on TV at the moment? Like the rest of the country, I find Gogglebox fascinating. Broadcasters and production companies often don’t appreciate the complexities of viewing habits, but Gogglebox has highlighted how in-depth people go when watching TV.
Is there anything that you’d delete from your CV? I had a short run as the presenter of Cash in the Attic. It’s a very popular show but didn’t really suit me. Am I proud when someone says “You’re the man who…” and I’m thinking “… dived with crocodiles, rowed the Atlantic with James Cracknell?” and they say “… did antiques in the attic?” It’s probably something that I don’t highlight on my CV.
Are you and James Cracknell planning another hare-brained adventure? James is currently being courted by David Cameron. Unless I want to electioneer with him he may be tied up, but maybe in a couple of years. Before he had his life-changing accident [Cracknell suffered serious head injuries after being knocked off his bike by a truck in Arizona in 2010] we had a big cycle trip planned across North America. I’d love to complete that.