Beach games

12:00 am Media

By a freak coincidence, just after it got a bit too chilly to be sitting on the deck drinking beer last night, the first episode of Survivor came on. So we watched it. Just out of curiosity, you understand. And it was actually quite entertaining, if not necessarily for the reasons that the programme makers intended…

For those that don’t know, Survivor is the latest “reality TV” wheeze, kind of like an outdoors Big Brother on steroids. The contestants are split into two competing tribes and have to survive unaided on a tropical island. Until two minutes before they were dumped over the side of a ship in the South China Sea, none of them had spoken to each other and they didn’t know which tribe they were in. The opening scenes were surreal, as the ex-foreign correspondent chap they’d wheeled in to host the show (presumably for extra gravitas) ambled about the deck while behind him people lobbed crates of supplies overboard and ran about.

First challenge was to paddle to shore, about a mile away. It took them over an hour. The paddling in scenes were used to introduce the contestants and their “luxury items”. And what a lack of imagination they showed. I can only assume that there were rules governing the choice of luxury items, as nearly everyone had chosen a toothbrush or a razor rather than, say, a giant box of waterproof matches or a machete.

Once ashore, it was shelter building, water finding, fishing and general making of camp. Fortuitously the teams both had ex-Forces survival experts in them so they weren’t completely clueless, although one team managed to lose their compass and spent three hours trying to find the water source. After two days, the first challenge was set, a race through water and land lighting torches as they went, hard work for a bunch of people who’d eaten just one small fish in 48 hours. Both tribes were fully warpainted up for that essential Lord of the Flies feel. One team won. The other team looked crushed. Then the winning team were disqualified - they’d missed a torch. Dramatic stuff… Actually it was strangely compelling. What helped a lot was the setting - all white beaches, palm trees and tropical sunsets - and the sheer extravagance of the filming. Apparently they used 16 camera crews, and it showed. Helicopter shots, close ups from in the sea, roving Steadicams in the jungle, they’ve got the lot. Quite how all the camera crews will avoid being killed and eaten remains to be seen…

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