Bear Grylls The Island - What You Need to Know
Since hitting it big in 2006 with Born Survivor (also known as Man vs. Wild or Ultimate Survivor, depending on where in the world you happen to be watching) and Running Wild, Chief Scout and ex-SAS reservist Bear Grylls has starred in numerous adventure and survival series for both UK and international audiences. Spring 2014 saw the launch of another major project for Bear, namely survival-themed castaway reality show The Island.
The first series featured just one team of thirteen men who were marooned together on the uninhabited island of Isla Gibraleón, which lies off the coast of Panama. With the Pacific Ocean stretching out towards the west, it was about as remote a location in which to produce a major television programme as you could wish for, without sacrificing the necessity of being able to guarantee complete safety for everyone involved.
Raw footage for the programme was shot entirely by the men themselves, who counted a sound recordist, a cameraman, a documentary film-maker and a television director among their number. This enabled them to produce broadcast-quality material, while giving viewers the sense of being embedded within the group as their adventure unfolded.
Over the course of four weeks, and with the benefit of just one day of survival training, the men survive by foraging for wild fruit and vegetables, catching, killing and butchering their own meat, and collecting fresh water which they had to purify prior to drinking in order to avoid developing debilitating stomach complaints. All with only the clothes on their backs and some basic survival equipment at their disposal, and beneath a blazing sun with only whatever shelter they could construct using the trees and plants which surrounded them.
After a degree of public outcry accusing the show of sexism due to the lack of any female participants and a perceived excess of machismo in its overall tone, the format was re-jigged for the second series to include two separate groups, one all-male, the other all-female.
Premiering in April 2015, the new episodes were located across two separate islands. Isla Gibraleón was reused for the all-female group, while the all-male group were based on the neighbouring island of Isla San Telmo. The challenges faced by the two groups were much the same as those encountered by the participants in series one, except with the addition of a fierce tropical storm, and the benefit of an extra day of survival training.
Channel 4 returned The Island to our screens in March 2016 for a third series, having refined the format again since the conclusion of the second instalment. This time, we follow two groups of eight participants (again one all male, the other all female) as they attempt to overcome a barrage of challenges on Isla San Telmo. In a departure from the previous incarnation of the programme, the island plays host to both groups, who are deposited on opposite shores at the beginning of the first episode, with the idea that they would eventually meet somewhere in the middle.
It is this merging of the groups which producers hope will lend the third series extra intrigue and dramatic tension. Once the groups are intertwined, so the thinking goes, the audience will see how the sexes interact in extreme situations perhaps more closely than ever before.
Series Three: Participants
How this pans out in practice depends on the people involved and the dynamics which develop between them. Here, then, is a brief introduction to each individual participant which hopefully might paint at least a vague picture of what audiences can expect from series three.
Ben is 32 and lives in London. He works as a cameraman, and describes himself as easy going and a good confidante.
Chris, who at 54 is one of the oldest members of the group, is a property developer from Manchester. He describes himself as 'happy, loyal and honest'.
Daniel, 41, lives in Hampshire and works as a consultant medical doctor. He describes himself as 'eccentric, hard-working, and kind'.
Elliott, 26, is a private chef from London. He loves the outdoors and describes being on the show as a 'dream'.
Patrick, at 19, is the youngest participant. He is a student from Kent, and wants to prove the mettle of both himself and his generation.
Mobile phone shop owner Rizwan is 26 and lives in Bradford. He has a black belt in Karate and hopes to bring laughter to the island.
Rob, aged 36 and from London, is cameraman. He thinks he will be able to put people 'at ease' due to his good interpersonal skills.
Simon, 35, is an insurance salesman from Leeds. He's 'desperate for adventure' and cites his tough upbringing and hectic family life as ample preparation for life on the island.
Alice, 26, is a hospital doctor from Lincoln. She lists her greatest strengths as her 'enthusiasm, commitment and hard-working spirit'.
Cassie, a camerawoman from Bristol, is, at 59, the oldest resident of the island. Due to her work and life experience, she sees herself as a potential leader of the group.
Erika, 57, is a retired farmer and also lives in Bristol. She hopes her practical skills will be a great help to the group and sees her zest for life as her greatest strength.
Hannah, 31, has retired from the army and now lives in Nottingham. Having lost a leg while on guard duty in Iraq, she hopes her appearance on the show will help to dispel any notions that the disabled are in any way incapable.
Rozelle 'Roz' David
'Roz', 33, works as a plumber in Watford. She cites her sense of humour and practical skills as her major assets on the island.
Sarah, 30, is a camerawoman and lives in London. Sarah describes herself as a resilient, driven and outgoing problem solver.
Shaney, 25, is a chartered accountant from Kettering. She wants to 'get out of her comfort zone' and show the world there's more to her than just her job and qualifications.
Tilly, 28, lives in London where she works as a barmaid. She has lived in Spain, Virginia and Scotland, and describes herself as an 'absolute f*****g nightmare'.
So there you have it. But wait. Cassie from the women's team left the island on the second day of filming to be replaced by Zoe Hines, a camerawoman from London who arrived on the island with 'no preparation and a pair of her husbands waterproof trousers'.
So things are hotting up already. But will series three live up to the glories of previous participants' endeavours on this windswept, tropical corner of the globe? Only time will tell, so let's have a look at a few highlights to see what it's up against.
Series One Highlights
Who can forget Ryan's heart-rending speech in front of the whole group when he apologised for going against protocol and disappearing during a food foraging excursion? Offering to allow Ryan to accompany him on a subsequent trip in search of vital supplies, sound recordist Kiff responded movingly with the words “I will beast you all day... But at the end of the day we will have done [pause] a s**t-load." Brings a tear to the eye.
Or how about the time the team caught, killed and ate two caiman crocodiles?
Actually, producers would prefer us not to remember that second one, as it led to certain quarters of the press levelling accusations of fakery, and possibly contributed to the general scepticism about Bear's entire public persona which some unsympathetic journalists and disgruntled competitors have attempted to encourage. Still, no such thing as bad publicity.
Series Two Highlights
Crocodiles made another significant appearance in the second series when, having not eaten properly for some two weeks, the male team discovered what they thought was a caiman crocodile of their own. Again it was caught, killed and eaten. Except this time it was not in fact a caiman, but rather a much rarer American crocodile of which the producers were hitherto unaware. This might not have done the ratings any harm, but it wasn't exactly a great way for the programme makers to endear themselves to the local authorities.
And just when it was beginning to look like things couldn't get any worse, the women's team were separated when they ran out of water and had to send a party out in search of a drinkable spring, or risk potentially life-threatening dehydration. Salvation came in the form of a tropical rainstorm, of which Julie observed; “We go up, we go down. We go up, we go down. We go right through the floor down. And now we're elated." Lucky for them, as in another show Bear may well have been on hand with an entirely different form of liquid refreshment for which he has become distinctly famous.
So there you have it. A good time had by all, and everyone got home in one piece. Let's just hope it's all fun and games again this time round. And if you're reading this Bear, we'll take a caiman burger with no onions, please. And just a glass of water for us, thanks, if it's all the same to you.