Wednesday, 22 November 2006

Ben Fogle, pods and castaways

This'll trigger off a few distant memories. One of the most ambitious "reality tv" programmes was Castaway 2000. Stick several dozen people (singles, couples, families, religiously devout, gays, alcoholics) onto a Hebridean island for a year; provide them with accommodation - specially designed wooden "pods" that would withstand the weather - and some food; see how they got on.


The programme ended up on the BBC. The production company picked Taransay, an island just off Harris. The filming and PR was slightly misleading, in that it was made out to be a very remote place. Erm, not quite; a very short boat ride takes you to harris, where you can get a bus to Stornoway, then a one hour flight to Glasgow or Edinburgh.


Castaway was widely mocked by the usual sneering reviewers, and various people (local and incomers) here. However, it wasn't as bad as is widely made out to be. The filming was for a reality TV show, so it was spiced up and edited in a way that the participants weren't too chuffed about. And most of those critics would be too terrified at the thought of leaving their cars, comfy houses and central heating behind for more than five minutes. Oddly, despite being a year long and in some of the best scenery of Europe, there were very few programmes shown; several months would go by without sight of it on TV, which was odd considering it was possibly the most expensive reality TV programme ever made.


After the programme, several of the participants went for a change of lifestyle. Some moved to other Scottish Islands. Others became well-known presenters. The island is now more well-used, having a couple of self-catering houses and providing a base for an annual fiddle event.

What of the pods? One of them ended up just a few miles away, on Harris. In fact, from its new home Taransay could be seen. I had a look around it (but not in it) during my last birthday, as I was in Luskentyre then. Alas, as you can see from the pictures on this blog posting, the place is gradually falling to bits as attempts at maintenance and making it habitable have stopped; shame.

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