TV blog: The Island with Bear Grylls

Benjie Goodhart / 21 April 2017

Season four of The Island with Bear Grylls sees the participants divided along age lines instead of gender. Will experience triumph over youthful energy?

The Island with Bear Grylls, Sunday 23rd April, 9pm, Channel 4

I wasn’t planning on previewing The Island this year. It’s now into its fourth series, and though I’m a big fan of the show, we kind of know what’s going to happen. They’ll all get dropped off on the island in a state of high excitement, before spending the next several weeks lying around in a state of dehydrated and malnourished exhaustion, occasionally summoning up the strength for a shouting match, and then finally being collected by Bear Grylls and insisting that it was the best, most humbling and beautiful experience of their life.

Except that this year, they have come up with a rather intriguing premise.

Last time around, they put a group of men and a group of women on the island separately. This time, they have put on a group of youngsters (under 30) and an older group (mostly 50s, ranging up to 66). Who will thrive, and who will sit, sobbing under the palm trees until they’re picked up by the rescue boat?

One thing becomes obvious almost immediately: It doesn’t matter whether you’re old or young, there is always an insufferably self-satisfied Alpha male in every group. In this case, 66-year-old Frank, and 29-year-old Ben, produce enough hot air to boil the water and cook the dinner for everyone in camp a hundred times over. If they used all the energy they expended telling everyone how they are their own man, and everyone should do what they tell them to, they’d have built a space age conurbation out of palm fronds by the end of the first week.

The second thing to become (rather gratifyingly) apparent is how much better the oldies seem to be doing than the youngsters. The older group have found fresh water, managed to light a fire, build a camp (complete with beds) and make a passable dinner, while the young group are still tramping about in the bush getting cross with each other.

As a result, they all become incredibly thirsty, leading one of the girls to break down and cry (a seemingly terrible tactic in the face of dehydration). And Frank has proved to be a more than useful member of the team, right up until the moment he starts singing Status Quo in camp. But if that wasn’t bad enough, he then makes a decision that puts his, and other, lives at risk. It behoves us all to accept that age does not always bring with it wisdom.

The London Marathon, Sunday 23rd April, 8:30am, BBC One

We’re not natural marathon runners in my family. I once ran a 10k, and for months afterwards, I kept expecting to be contacted to be informed that I had been made an MBE. Meanwhile, my sister once had an American cousin to stay, as he was running the London Marathon. The night before the race, my sister and her husband had some friends over for dinner. The wine flowed. When they got up the next day, they came downstairs to find their American guest sitting on the sofa. “Oh no!” said my sister. “Did you miss the race?” “No,” came the reply. “I’ve done it.”

As I haul my wobbly, sweating carcass out for a 5km run this weekend, I will quietly be paying tribute to the 40,000 hardy, remarkable souls running eight times that distance. The motivations of those taking part will range from those wanting to enjoy themselves, those wanting to set a personal best, those wanting to win the race (admittedly a small group) and those particularly keen not to collapse in a sweaty, sobbing heap after half-a-mile.

The first part of the coverage will concentrate largely on the elite runners. In the men’s race, Kenenisa Bekele ran (Ethiopia) ran the second-fastest ever marathon in Berlin last year, and starts favourite, although he faces strong opposition from Kenya’s Stanley Biwott, who will be looking to improve on his second place last year. 

Meanwhile, in the women’s race, Ethiopia take on Kenya once more, with Mare Dibaba, the Ethiopian World Champion, challenging 2016 winner and Olympic champion Jemima Sumong of Kenya. In the men’s wheelchair race, David Weir is competing in his last ever race, and will be desperate to make it seven wins after the agony of defeat in a sprint finish last year against longtime rival Marcel Hug.

After that, in many senses, the real story of the marathon comes to the fore: the thousands of people who are putting their bodies through hours of turmoil, the culmination of many months of intensive training, to raise money for charitable causes. Some will run to prove a point to themselves, others will do so in memory of loved ones. Some will be dressed as rhinos, or enormous pieces of fruit, or cartoon characters, or nuns. Others will be in shorts and a running vest, looking at their feet, willing themselves to keep on going. The stories are invariably deeply moving, and the people involved are inspirations. In a year when too many of us in this country have been angry with one another, it’s good to be reminded of the best about humanity, in all its lunatic, self-immolating glory.

The best… and the rest

Saturday 22nd April

Match of the Day Live: FA Cup Semi Final: Chelsea v Tottenham Hotspur, 4:50pm, BBC One: This season’s best two teams battle it out in what should be an absolute belter of a semi-final at Wembley.

Man Made Planet: Earth from Space, 8pm, Channel 4: Visually magnificent film with new images from space revealing the impact humanity has wrought upon our blue marble.

Sunday 23rd April

Bigheads, 7pm, ITV: New game show in which contestants put on massive celebrity heads and compete in a series of celebrity-inspired challenges, hosted by Jason Manford, with commentary by Kriss Akabusi. No, really.

The Durrells, 8pm, ITV: Second series of the whimsical drama starring Keeley Hawes as Louisa Durrell, marshalling her eccentric family through the vicissitudes of life on sun-drenched Corfu.

The Crucible: 40 Golden Snooker Years, 9pm, BBC Two: Steve Davis presents this one-off documentary looking at the surprisingly interesting history of the World Championship, including THAT final with Dennis Taylor.

Monday 24th April

Fifteen to One, 3pm, Channel 4: Television’s most charming Borrower Sandi Toksvig presents a new series of the toe-curlingly adversarial game show.

Little Boy Blue, 9pm, ITV: Four-part factual drama about the murder of Rhys Jones in Liverpool in 2007, starring the always-watchable Stephen Graham as the police officer heading the investigation and facing a wall of silence.

Tuesday 25th April

Paul O’Grady: For the Love of Animals – India, 9pm, ITV: Two-part series in which animal-lover and wisecracking broadcaster O’Grady travels to India to look into the welfare of the beasties out there.

Horizon: ADHD and Me with Rory Bremner, 9pm, BBC Two: The impressionist investigates a condition he believes he has, and takes Ritalin for the first time – right before going onstage to perform.

The rest of the week: There is nothing new to see here. Seriously, I’m not just goofing off so I can go and put my feet up with a cup of tea (although that is exactly what I’m going to do. Milk and one sugar, please. You’re an angel.)

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