Bear Grylls’s The Island is like The Apprentice with dysentery
Not content with seeing how fast a group dissolves into Deliverance-type brutality, there’s an extra layer of engineered conflict
Bear Grylls has returned to The Island, abandoning another group of alpha-avengers and smug marathon-running self-improvers on an uninhabitable Pacific Ocean isle in a nonsensical “fight for survival”.
There is no prize money at the end of this arduous task, there isn’t even a promise of an interview on This Morning or an OK! Magazine cover alongside Bear in his formal combat trousers – this is a show that is powered by self-satisfaction and a shonky self-discovery philosophy that involves macheting snakes.
What is supposed to be an engaging social experiment is a nightmarish, month-long team-building exercise. Where instead of the mild peril of someone slipping off the obstacle course after too many lunchtime wines, there is the real danger that someone could actually die because Susan from accounts didn’t wash out the backend of a blowfish properly.
The pointless endurance test is usually dominated by those whose Instagram account is stuffed full of empty inspirational quotes and gym-selfies, who live by the tiresome “work hard, play hard” maxim – it’s the Apprentice with dysentery.
The wealthier inhabitants barely acknowledge the others, turning their expensive athleisure-clad backs on them and immediately worrying about supplies
With the format having been firmly established, the formula for the past few seasons has been spiced up. Not content with the challenge of leaving a group of people at the mercy of nature and seeing how quickly they dissolve into Deliverance levels of brutality due to hunger, there’s now an extra added layer of engineered conflict.
Previous seasons pitted men against women and the old against the young, but this series is billed as a “class war”, with those earning more than £100,000 (€114,500) rubbing up against those who earn less than the UK national average wage. The idea being that contestants will morph into sitcom-style clichés, the poshos withering away without a wine list and the proles tearing up at the thoughts of a takeaway as the lipless Grylls observes them spouting useless pop psychology, an anodyne Attenborough.
“It was like a Northern dole bus had broken down,” guffaws ruffled-haired rich-boy Barnes after he catches sight of his cohabiters for the first time. The wealthier inhabitants barely acknowledge the others, turning their expensive athleisure-clad backs on them and immediately worrying about supplies.
They balk at the idea of having to share anything – whether it be shelter or food – but when ribald receptionist Mercedes and Newcastle nurse Laura manage to get a fire started, something that eludes Cambridge chap Tan (much to his frustration), they are warily welcomed like helpful servants.
The only happy outcome that could unite them in classless comradeship is if they revolt, sacrificing Grylls to the Sun God
This relative harmony is broken when the tired crew shuffle off to the communal shelter, leaving the monied group shivering under the stars for the night. A split between the camps is eventually decided upon in the morning, with wide-boy Phil happy to leave the serious posh set behind complaining “they have no team spirit” and accusing them of the ultimate sin of being “low on bants”.
As he and the rest of the gang frolic in the sea, the affluent side scuttle about dismantling their lodgings and making off with anything that is useful, leaving unemployed Sammy screaming at the sky in frustration about the “thieving rich” like a drunk Marxist undergraduate.
Things are far from idyllic for the well-to-do though. With rumbling stomachs raising to a roar and morale melting under the sun, lecturer James heads on a scavenger hunt as the rest go fishing. Returning empty-handed, they look to eccentric James to have sourced some edible wildlife, but instead (having slightly oversold his discovery with a build-up worthy of a hip-hop hype man) he presents the group with a half-empty bottle of Lilt that had washed up on the shore.
Having been unfairly rounded on by the team, he manages to redeem himself by stabbing a snake in the head, proving his worth like a cat gifting its owner with a dead mouse.
As the two factions turn on themselves and each other, the only happy outcome that could unite them in classless comradeship is if they revolt, sacrificing Grylls to the Sun God before using him as a human canoe to escape. That would be a revolution worth televising.