Friday, March 9, 2007 by

I’m going to stick my neck out here and predict Castaway will quickly be considered one of the biggest flops of the year.

Already, you can hear the chains clanking as they tighten around the BBC’s neck – this millstone imparting its full, dull weight. From Danny Wallace’s opening one-eyebrow-raised spiel, to his hopeless double-goodbye at the end, via – well – all the other bits of Danny Wallace, really, tonight’s opener was a terrible exercise in brand revitalization.

That there was never any real sense the original Castaway 2000 represented unfinished business made the whole thing feel more pointless anyway. And in fact, to resurrect the franchise just set up unhelpful comparisons which buried this fun-sized version. For one, as the parade washed up on the shore of that New Zealand off-cut, I found myself thinking that this was no microcosm of society forming on the beach. But, in fact, why should it be? At no point did the show make any claims for staging a social experiment. That, I reminded myself, was the original Castaway.

So what, then, is the modern version actually for? It’s hard to tell. Like a “re-imagining” of Rupert Bear, sometimes it just seems embarrassing to squeeze something old and a little bit noble into a pair of funky trainers. The new Castaway is neither fish nor fowl. We watched the initial landing party find their huts, their food and their beds. Noble savages? Well, no, a bunch of idiots if Wallace’s far-too-regular, glib summations of their actions were anything to go by, as he instructed us on what to think, and who to laugh at.

Worse still, those vital, formative days were put on fast-forward. We saw the gang move a toilet and then suddenly it was time for bed. Twice. It felt as though the programme-makers were in too much of a hurry to get to the good stuff. The bits where people start fighting. As such, the show became a fairly humdrum but overly elaborate scheme to get folk shouting at each other. She hates scroungers and, hey, he’s a scrounger! This is going to be great!

Although, in retrospect, Castway 2000 ended up a folly, it was always a grand one, with its heart in the right place. That was a programme about forging a community, where societal infrastructure and issues on schooling (no kids this time around, you note) were expected to be the big notes. Not, will the lap dancer lamp the “non-practising” Muslim. It was a programme about diverse opinions and desires, rather than something that turned into pretty much an open mike session for some fey self-proclaimed anarchist in a nasty shirt.

But, come on, let’s quit the comparisons. We already know they’re inappropriate. Castaway is clearly so-named simply so the BBC can puff their chests and remind the world they did “reality” first. It’s ironic, then, that in revisiting the franchise, they’ve ended up with something that feels like an own-brand version of C4′s Shipwrecked (buff lads!), crossed with a tad of Survivor (Wallace issuing weekly challenges). That it’s so off the pace of even these mid-league efforts is depressing enough, but then you recall the fact they hit our screens a glacial six years ago …

Castaway is a terrible programme. With all the √©lan of an ITV2 reality show bolt-on, it should never have washed up on BBC1. Make ready with the distress flares everyone, and get ready to jump the first ship that happens to sail by…


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