The Island with Bear Grylls, TV review: They'd be better off with a spa weekend

Channel 4's survival show returned for a second outing with two series running concurrently - one with men and, tomorrow night, with women

Will Dean
Wednesday 08 April 2015 23:00
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Paradise lost: Bear Grylls, centre, and the male team on their Pacific island
Paradise lost: Bear Grylls, centre, and the male team on their Pacific island

"The life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short." Not a raft of adjectives you might use to describe Edward "Bear" Grylls, chief scout, survival specialist and presumably scholar of Hobbes. Well, solitary perhaps. This is a man who has slept in a deer carcass. The above is from the description in Leviathan of man in a state of nature, which presumably formed part of the commissioning brief at Channel 4 for The Island with Bear Grylls, which returned for a second series tonight. That and "it's a macho Survivor".

The premise is simple: 14 blokes get ferried towards a Pacific island by Bear, get chucked off and have to survive without killing each other for six weeks. Although the islanders are only with Bear in the same way we're with God. He bobbed about on a boat miles away explaining how to catch pilchards with your toes, while the fellas on the island squeezed their last drops of drinkable water from their vests.

The difference between last year and this is that there are two series running concurrently, one with men and, tomorrow night, with women. And if the evidence of the heterogametic island is anything to go by, I know which one I'd rather be on.

We quickly met Paul, a thirtysomething building site manager, by way of footage of him in day-to-day-life that seemed to consist of him angrily swearing at builders. I'd wager a spa weekend may be more useful than a month and half of boiling his own urine on a twig fire, but I'm not a therapist.

Paul told us his motivations for joining The Island: "I don't enjoy day-to-day life at the moment. I've got a stressful job and a newborn baby at home. I want to go to the island to get away from the day-to-day bullshit." A sentence his baby's mother will no doubt have been thrilled to hear as she looked after their screaming child while he cut down trees with his shirt off.

Others' motivations seemed just as daft. Barney, a paramedic, wanted to live on the island to feel more macho. A paramedic! He literally saves people's lives while driving at 80mph. I feel macho putting a shelf up.

At least Barney had his uses. There was a funny moment when the men introduced themselves to one another. They included doctors, builders – the kind of people you need to start a functioning society. And then: "I'm Kyle and I'm a website consultant." Poor Kyle.

Paul quickly took on the role of William Golding's Jack Merridew, cutting swathes through miles of jungle in an attempt to reach a beach that the men weren't sure existed. Thankfully for him, it did and the sight of them reaching it provided a few hours of harmonious joy.

Obviously it didn't last long. If Paul was Jack, 50-year-old builder Andy followed up the Lord of the Flies comparisons by quickly stepping into the role of Piggy. Quickly ostracising himself from the group and – wonderfully – having his glasses used (by web consultant Kyle, no less) to light a fire. At least he got them back. KILL THE PIG, CUT HER THROAT!

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It didn't quite come to that. Though it was only a couple of days before the first couple of men decided they wanted to leave and rejoin Bear on his incredible floating boat. The conditions were, it must be said, miserable, but it didn't say much for the male species that they couldn't even manage a week without falling out.

A low bar for the women to raise tonight.

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