For me, The Island with Bear Grylls was one of the TV high points of 2015. It was thrilling, watching a group of men and a group of women battling against nature for their very survival. Okay, probably not their very survival. Even in the early part of the 21st Century, we’ve not yet reached the stage where we’re happy to watch 20 people die of dehydration as part of a reality TV show.
Related: Benjie's round-up of the best TV of 2015
Anyway, the show is back for a third series, and judging by the number of people who applied to go on it (an astonishing 135,000) it wasn’t just me whose imagination was captured. (To be clear, my imagination was not captured in any way that made me want to actually go on, or within 500 miles of, the island. Indeed, such are the travails of those involved, I am pretty much resolved never to set foot on another island of any sort. I’m probably going to move to mainland Europe, just to be on the safe side.) Quite how viewers can watch the torture to which the islanders are subjected week in, week out, and think “Stuff rum punch on a Bajan beach, I’m settling for boiled swamp water on a pitiless tropical island in rainy season” is anyone’s guess, but we are indeed a peculiar and varied species.
This time around, eight men and eight women are being dropped on opposite ends of the same island, unaware that the other is there. The show gets off to a magnificently sadistic start, setting the tone for the next six weeks of blissful schadenfreude.
The women are quickly knocked into shape by a rather overbearing woman called Erika. She seems to have some front, which is not surprising when you look at the press pack supporting the series, and discover that she is none other than Erika Roe, possibly the most famous streaker in sporting history. Even more impressive is army veteran Hannah, who is embarking on this adventure in spite of having lost a leg in Iraq in 2007. And then, at the other end of the hardnut scale, there is Cassie. Cassie looks like a rabbit caught in the headlights, if the rabbit in question was also suffering from panic attacks, low self-esteem, and some serious collywobbles. If Cassie lasts the distance, I’m the Emperor Zorg of Basingstoke.
That said, Cassie looks like Hercules himself compared to Rizwan in the men’s group. He lands on the island and promptly falls to pieces, sobbing uncontrollably and wanting to go home. Honestly, 135,000 people applied, and Cassie and Rizwan managed to get on the show? I may not be cut out for life on the island, but at least I well know it.
Anyway, things quickly improve from there. For the viewer, I mean. It’s awful for the islanders. Massive tropical storms, scorpions, dehydration, arguments, sleep deprivation, no fire, no food, no water, it’s not exactly Club Med. And then the women go and make a very, very serious mistake.
Best of the rest
As ever (well, ever being the last fortnight) we start with sport. Saturday afternoon (1:30pm, BBC One) sees the World Half Marathon Championships from Cardiff, featuring Mo Farah and others like him who are too wimpy to run the full distance. Disgraceful. Later that day (7:30pm, ITV) sees an International Football Friendly, if such a thing is possible against the English nemesis, Germany. Expect to see numerous substitutions, nobody trying very hard, and a Mexican Wave by about ten minutes in. On Tuesday, the whole thing happens again, when England play Holland, who used to be good at football. If you like your sports a bit posher, and even more pointless, the Boat Race is on BBC One on Sunday from 2:25pm, when the nation stops to watch 16 tall public schoolboys rowing from Mortlake to Barnes when they could have made the journey in half the time on a bendy bus.
Stretching the boundaries of sport a little, on Sunday evening (8pm, BBC Two) we have Natural Born Winners, a four-part series to decide who out of Iwan Thomas, Gareth Thomas, Donovan Bailey and James Toseland is best at various sports nobody cares about. Tonight, they race against a horse over 21 miles of mountainous terrain in Wales. As you do. And while we’re on the subject of ludicrously foolhardy athletic endeavours, on Monday 28th March we have Eddie Izzard: Marathon Man for Sport Relief, a look back at his jaw-dropping achievement of running 27 marathons in 27 days across South Africa. Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Farah!
If a bunch of millionaires punting a ball about to no great affect isn’t your bag, you could enjoy matters more literary on other channels on Saturday night. At 8pm, Channel 4 screens the first ever archaeological investigation of Shakespeare’s tomb, to discover “what lies beneath the mysterious-looking gravestone”. My guess, call me a wild gambler here, is the body of William Shakespeare. Still, you know, dead. Then, at 9pm, switch to BBC Two for a documentary, Being the Brontes, a look at the lives and works of the celebrated sisters, sort of like the Kardashians of their day. In, um, not very many ways.
Sunday night (BBC One, 9pm) sees what for me is the televisual event of the year so far the last episode of The Night Manager, which has been a tremendous drama, with Hugh Laurie and Olivia Colman both absolutely spellbinding. Please don’t let it be a disappointment!
There’s another comedian filling a dramatic role on Monday night (ITV, 9pm), when Rowan Atkinson takes up the reins as Maigret in a one-off feature-length drama (with another coming up later in the year). Hopefully the French detective won’t be driving around in a comical little Mini Cooper getting involved in all sorts of slapstick mix-ups.
The rest of the week is fairly quiet, in terms of new programmes, although on Wednesday night (9pm) Channel 4 has Matt Frei’s documentary President Trump: Can He Really Win? The mind boggles…