We are in the era where Andy Warhol’s “fifteen minutes of fame” has been traded up to “one season of reality television.” To feed the beast, television producers have been dipping deep into the well founded by Mark Burnett and Survivor. Take a couple of dozen volunteers, screened for aesthetic appeal and lack of self-awareness, put them in an isolated location with a bogus objective, film them embarrassing themselves, and make money.
This was pretty much the premise of a Brit television series called Eden. Twenty-three people were selected to be marooned in a remote Scottish glen, sans scotch or even haggis, and create a society. What could possibly go wrong?
Armed only with rudimentary tools and the burning desire to be the highlight of C4’s summer schedule, 23 volunteers have since March been marooned in a coastal region of the Scottish Highlands.
Their task: to create, in microcosm, a new civilisation.
Will entrenched prejudices endure? Can the patriarchy be overcome? How long before someone invents the pre-industrial version of Pokemon Go?
On the whole, it seems like they did a great job of creating a microcosm of a society run by liberals. First, they selected a godforsaken spot with a short growing season and limited natural resources and then they set about plotting against one another.
The exodus, which includes the camp’s two doctors and a paramedic, is said to have been sparked by a mixture of hunger and disillusionment with the project, as various factions formed within the participants.
The programme has already been beset by a bullying row, after viewers saw Tara Zieleman, 34, a life coach, quit after being branded “lazy” by some male members of the group.
A “life coach” lazy? Tell me it ain’t so.
Two further volunteers, a junior doctor known as Ali, and a cameraman known as Ben, are also said to have left, leaving the participants with no medical expertise.
But being Brits and used to the National Health Service, lack of medical care did not deter them. Nevertheless they persisted. They plowed on. Intrepid.
On the whole, it reminded me of the Robert Heinlein quote:
“Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded — here and there, now and then — are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty.
This is known as “bad luck.”
The show lasted four episodes and the network pulled the plug. But wait, you’re saying. Your headline says a year. How can that be? Glad you asked.
After a year cut off from modern life in the Scottish Highlands, imagine re-emerging to find a world where Donald Trump is US president, Britain has left the EU and Leicester won the Premier League.
For the contestants of the Channel 4 programme Eden, coming back from isolation means not just coming to terms with 2017 but also the news that their year of toil in the wilderness barely made it on to television.
The programme, which first aired in July last year, was billed as a social experiment where 23 strangers were brought to the remote west Highlands of Scotland to build a self-sufficient community away from technology and modern tools. The year-long saga would be recorded by four crew members and personal cameras.
However, only four episodes of the show – covering March, April and May – were screened, as viewing figures dropped from 1.7m to 800,000. Sexual jealousy, infighting and hunger also meant that over the year, a reported 13 of the 23 contestants left the show, though Channel 4 would not confirm the dropouts.
Despite the show being taken off air, those still toiling for survival in the wilds of the 600-acre estate on the Ardnamurchan peninsula were not informed that their ordeal had not been broadcast since August.
That’s right. The show was canceled but the producers decided to just go with it. I assume they had money for a year’s worth of episodes and nothing urgent to accomplish in their lives. Allegedly, they were gathering material for “four additional segments” but one suspects they were just laying low, drawing a paycheck, and waiting for people to forget this had ever happened.