I don’t watch “reality” TV shows. They all seem so contrived, with their deliberate plot lines and forced conflicts, all occurring while the cameras roll. It seems to be about as far from true reality as you can get.
But a British “reality” show called Eden may actually have unwittingly exposed the contestants on a show to reality, of a sort. The typically silly, wholly contrived plot sent 23 people out into the wilds of Scotland, to a desolate area called the Ardnamurchan Peninsula. There, they were supposed to be totally cut off from the outside world, so they would have to use their survival skills, live for a year on food they trapped and caught, and create a new community from nothing.
Unbeknownst to the contestants, however, the show was cancelled and taken off the TV schedule after only four episodes, months ago. But the show’s producers kept the cameras rolling, apparently without telling the contestants that no one was watching.
Now that the year in the wilderness is ending, the truth about the show apparently has begun to emerge. Ten of the 23 people quit, with one contestant who threw in the towel calling the show “a load of rubbish.” And according to a Scottish newspaper, at least some of the other participants “resorted to smuggling in junk food and booze.” According to one resident quoted in the newspaper, “[s]ome of the participants were even seen in the dentist at Fort William needing treatment after eating chicken feed grit.” The paper also reported that the show’s failure was due to “sexual jealousy, hunger and feuds.”
There’s something richly satisfying about this. Contestants on “reality” shows seem to be stunningly self-absorbed and convinced that everyone will be keenly interested in their thoughts and feelings and plans as they talk to the cameras. From their carefully crafted poses in the publicity photo above, the Eden contestants seem to be as phony, calculated and absurdly self-conscious as the rest of reality show “stars.” It’s not hard to imagine them spending time during their year in the “wilderness” wondering which of them was really connecting with the audience back home, and whose antics were making them the sentimental favorite or the hated villain — when in reality no one was watching and no one cared. I think you could say that they’ve been exposed to reality of a sort.
The producers say that a show about what happened will be broadcast later. Who knows? Maybe the news stories about the wilderness reality show that was cancelled without telling the contestants are all part of an elaborate plan by the producers to drum up viewers for a show that was a ludicrous dud, so they can recover some of their losses, and the rest of us are being played. I guess that would be reality of a sort, too.