Castaway 2000

Tuesday, January 18, 2000 by

Castaway 2000 is a grandiose scheme from the avuncular BBC wherein 30 people are shipped to an abandoned island off the north of Scotland and left for a year to forge a life for themselves and – more importantly – a community. Billed as a social experiment it is, of course, far too early to mark the programme against this objective. What we can be sure of is Castaway 2000 is great fun.

These opening episodes are going to be unrepresentative of the series to come, in that they’re depicting a very different and far more dynamic situation (people “auditioning” to become a castaway, via a series of outdoor tasks which culminated in an orienteering competition) than the one the series proper will deal with. Over the course of a year routine will set in, and so will boredom, allowing us to really see the subjects of the experiment in their habitat. In the meantime we were invited to inspect 34 people attempting to sell themselves, without making it obvious that they were selling themselves. Aside from anything else, this worked very well as an introduction to the “characters” who are going to populate the drama. And as viewers, with the advantage of being pretty much omnipresent observers, there was much sport to be had as the prospective Crusoes attempted to draw together, to display their ability to “work well in a team, but take individual responsibility” (as the saying goes) and inevitably fell apart as individuality finally asserted itself and tousle-haired self-proclaimed “skippers” like Kim (an unlikable pious rogue) made off in their own direction to the detriment of everyone else.

Watching people forced together attempting to negotiate stressful situations is a sure-fire guarantee of rollicking entertainment by my reckoning.

Unusually, the presence of a psychologist, Cynthia McVey, as a commentator actually worked in this instance. Her comments were sufficiently infrequent and she normally got to the nub of a situation with clarity and the minimum of flannel. Her insights into the strengths (or lack of) displayed by those vying for leadership added a great deal to my appreciation of the tensions that were coming to the fore. Des’ clashes with Jack were depicted with real relish on the part of the programme-makers and our psychologist could barely contain her glee when Des was caught on camera admonishing Jack: “You stupid bastard!”

So who will be castaway? There must be a great temptation for the production team to select Des and Jack, as their ongoing battles would surely provide easy, explosive drama. However, one hopes that reason is exercised and the likes of Ben (diplomatic, personable, practical) make the grade whilst Des and his ilk are bundled back to those lives of quiet desperation from whence they came.

Ah screw reason… let’s see Kim, Des and Jack take to the island and by March will be acquainting ourselves with the latest goings-on of those whooping, naked men (who have blood trails and painted daubings across their cheeks) and their fight for possession of the conch.


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