If you were to believe Bear Grylls at the start of the brand new series of The Island, you’d be mistaken for thinking this show would give a deeply psychological analysis of the differences between older and younger generations, and how they cope in testing circumstances.
“Will the energy of youth trump the wisdom of age?” ponders Bear, as the concept for this fourth series sees a bunch of 18-30 year-olds abandoned on one island and a group of oldies dropped off on another.
In reality, The Island has all the subtlety of a tidal wave. It’s just about getting a perverse kick out of seeing people break down as they can’t find water, fight over a morsel of crab and come under strain from heat, torrential rain and each other. And we can’t get enough.
Split into groups by age, there are plenty of moments when what happened to the younger lot actually resembled a Club 18-30 holiday. The strangely-coloured wee after the group suffer dehydration, one of the boys accidentally seeing a wayward nipple and on the first night they have to go to sleep on the cold, hard ground with no warmth, waking up at 5.40am. It’s basically a pared-down version of a Magaluf bender.
Although there are no doubt plenty of scenes edited for dramatic effect, it’s undeniable that The Island is bloody dangerous. The whole thing makes I’m a Celebrity look like an all-inclusive week in Center Parcs, and when oldie Frank ventures very unwisely into the middle of a fast-flowing current, watching him veer wildly off course and drift downstream is incredibly tense and feels all too real.
“It only takes one or two difficult, tricky, confrontational people to sour a group,” says Bear, and yet *obviously* the producers had inserted an incredibly difficult, tricky, confrontational person into each of the groups.
The two islanders that stand out are 66-year-old Frank who’s in with the oldies and 29-year-old Ben who’s with the youngies. They are both huge pains. Headstrong, overly-opinionated and fiercely determined that they’re right no matter what the cost. They are both complete nightmares so are – of course – reality TV catnip.
Barely have Frank’s boots touched dry land after being jettisoned off Bear’s boat before he’s bouldering off into the middle distance, leaving his fellow 50+ Saga campers in his wake. Cue wails of “Frank?! FRANK!!” being shouted into the wind as they try and locate their pensioned comrade.
Frank is the oldest member of the group, and when he’s not being carried away by a deadly tidal current, he’s also the most resourceful. “I don’t know the word quitting. It’s not in my vocabulary at all,” he parrots. Although he would be undeniably irritating to live alongside, he’s at least incredibly useful to have in the group.
Which is more than can be said for electrician Ben. He similarly charged off into the forest like an elephant, hoping to lead the yoof to a beach somewhere to make camp.
After hours – and hours – and hours of aimless wandering around the jungle, 18-year-old Freddie pipes up. He suggests finding a stream and seeing if following it might lead to the sea. Pretty sensible, no? Well all Ben can muster is a puffed out chest and muttering: “Remember, we’re following the 18-year-old here?”
Um, maybe… but this 18-year-old grew up on a Scottish farm and arguably has far more experience of the great outdoors. Ben’s ego is so huge it’s any wonder it actually fits on the island. At one point, he wanders off into the forest to have a moan about the “middle class c**ts” he’s marooned with.
According to doctor Emma, Ben is being “poo-faced”. We think she meant po-faced but as they hadn’t worked out the toilet facilities yet, who knows?
The Island with Bear Grylls starts Sunday April 23 at 9pm on Channel 4