- Extract 1
At the end of January
the BBC decided to show all the castaways the first four programmes,
covering the selection process the previous year. A TV was imported
onto the island for one night, and for the first time all the
participants in the great experiment were able to see how they
came across ...
Ben with a fan
Showing the castaways the first four programmes had never been
the producers' original plan. But because of the delayed move
to the island the Harris group had seen themselves on TV. 'So
then we had to show the rest of the programmes to the ones still
on the island,' says Executive Producer Colin Cameron. I'm sure
that that had an impact on the dynamics of the group and on
people's self-perception. Dez, for one, was really shocked by
how he'd come over. It's bound to have had an effect - but in
the end that just becomes part of the dynamic of the project.'
Certainly, during the week that followed the group viewing of
the selection programmes, the ex-sales manager went into a visible
depression. 'A couple of people have been feeling down about
the way they're portrayed,' Trevor said to Toby in a joint video
diary. 'Yeah,' Toby agreed. 'Of all the footage that's been
taken, only certain bits have been selected to show them in
a certain way. With one person in particular, it seems that
'You see him to be a bit of an arse,
but he's a really nice, sound bloke, he's got a side to him
you don't see.'
Girlfriend Liz was more vocal about it. 'Dez has been pretty
down in the dumps,' she told the video diary. 'Primarily because
he's had all the castaways coming up to him and saying, "Oh,
you've been portrayed really horribly, and my friends and relations
have written to me saying how sorry they are that I have to
spend a year with that guy." I think that's really upset
him, quite understandably.
'And I would just like to say what
I think,' Liz went on, addressing the minicam more directly.
'Which is, you know, you say as programme makers you do balance
the programmes. Well, I haven't seen a balance in the way you've
portrayed Dez. You've only shown his nasty side and I know for
a fact you've got loads of footage of him being the joker, messing
around, being caring and things. So I haven't been very impressed
about your integrity in terms of showing a balanced view of
people. For example, I remember, Chris, you saying to me that
if an incident occurs you'll always then go and interview that
person afterwards and hear what they have to say. Well, I didn't
see any of that in the programmes, so I look forward to you
addressing that in the programmes to come. Certainly knowing
that loads and loads of people think you're an absolute arse
because of the way you've been portrayed is a bit hurtful. So
I hope you can do something about it,' the management consultant
Other complaints were less serious, and not necessarily focused
at the programme makers. 'I was not totally happy with how I
was portrayed in Programme Four,' wrote Mike, 'but there is
nothing I can do about it now.' 'I'm a bit pissed off,' Philiy
confided, 'not with anyone, just with me. After we watched the
programmes I felt I was seen to be really quiet. Paul did point
out that I was probably quiet at the time, but it's really frustrating
me that I'm being perceived as something I'm not.' 'Colin likewise,'
Dez told the video diary, 'has been a bit concerned that the
bits he's seen on TV are not portraying him in the light he
feels is acceptable.' 'I just haven't been on the programme
very much,' said Colin.
Little Old Me
A reaction of a more complex kind
lay in wait for someone to whom the programmes had been kinder.
'I still don't understand why there's this huge interest in
this project or me,' newly crowned tabloid darling Ben reported.
'I'd never in a million years thought that me, Ben Fogle, little
old me that worked at Tatler anonymously, likes going around
London by myself, doing a bit of shopping, just being me - why
people are interested in me. Suddenly the post arrived yesterday
and I had probably about thirty or forty letters from strangers.
One from Mummy, one from friends and family, and literally thirty-five
letters from everyone that watched the programme and they were
so lovely. All of them start, You probably think I'm really
strange doing this and I'm not a complete weirdo, I just watched
the programme and felt so strongly about it I can't stop thinking
about all of you - that I have to write a letter. And then they
tell you all these things, they give you a secret, so I've got
thirty secrets that I've been told by people I've never met.
It's incredible. I just lay in bed last night reading them,
just going, Oh ah. And I'm building up this whole picture about
all these people that have written to me and it's just a whole
new element to this project. I suddenly know thirty new people.
On a deserted island. And that's really strange, because I'm
supposed to be just with the thirty-six of us here. Some people
have sent books, some photographs. It's really lovely, so heart-warming
that I can't get my head around it, I really can't.'
That he could be so concerned about
thirty total strangers perhaps indicated at least part of the
heart-throb's appeal. Handsome hunks are two a penny on television,
and the 'posh' not currently idolised. But Ben's essential good-natured
decency was a rarer quality, and one that the viewing public,
fed an endless diet of the cynical, self-obsessed and wordlywise,
the hard-eyed autocuties and the pudgy meeja lads, perhaps hungered
for. A man with the enthusiasm to swim to the middle of a lake!
And the sensitivity to be visibly upset about strangling a chicken!
Yes please! That his qualities were more genuine than most had
already been tested by close proximity to his fellow castaways.
Builder Ray was not the most obvious fan for such a Woosterish
fellow, yet of all the youngsters, he rated Ben the most. Dinner
lady Gwyneth had rhapsodised to me on my visit about how 'unspoilt'
he was. Postman Pat had a project to try and get him to swear
- 'at least once' - during the year.
'It goes back to this interest specifically in me,' Fogle continued.
'There's two parts to that, well, three parts. One is I can't
really understand why, because there's lots of other really
lovely people here. Not that I'm necessarily really lovely,
but that's what I'm reading about myself. So I can't understand
why it's happened. The second is I'm flattered, and I really
like it. But you know when someone says to you, "God, you've
got a really funny laugh" or "When you sneeze you
do this funny thing with your nose", you become really
conscious of how you laugh, or how your nose goes. So when I
get these letters, and see some of these newspaper pieces, and
they all say, Ben Fogle has proved to be the star of the programme,
with his ease in front of the camera, I start thinking: OK,
well how am I being easy? Then you start thinking, Oh my God,
everyone's obviously got expectations of me, what happens if
I don't keep up with them? All the reviews said: Ben is such
a lovely, helpful, thoughtful person and I can't help but think,
Oh my God I've got twelve months, what happens if I break at
any stage, it's going to be so embarrassing, because I'm going
to break everyone's expectations of how I should be reacting.
So the second part is I suddenly feel a pressure I didn't think
I was going to have.
'Then the third part, which for me is building up and building
up and I can't wait for it to stop, is that I never asked anyone
to be so nice about me. Now certain people here are starting
to feel that it's not fair, that they should have a turn and
be allowed to have stories and pictures done about them. It's
quite hard because people will now start thinking the camera
is specifically going to be focusing on me. Which I don't think
it has. I'm just here for this year to have a wonderful time,
to bring my dog up on this wonderful island, to learn how to
make bread and build and live with thirty-six other people and
grow crops and learn how to fish - I mean everything. But there
are other people for who the cameras are the main reason for
being here and it's coming out, it's slowly coming out. You
can see people vying for the camera more. It even came up at
a meeting: Why are some people being filmed and other people
being ignored? And I can't see that happening, but that's the
way people are starting to see it.
'When the first newspaper reports
came out about me everyone had a real giggle. Liz was reading
them out and it was funny, because it was just so strange. But
now, suddenly, when a new report comes in and there's a picture
and a little story it's deathly silence. They read it and it's
just passed on. But I can't help that. Which is why I'm looking
forward to us going out of the limelight. No more newspaper
reports. I want to get on with everyone again. This is supposed
to be a documentary about following what happens when 36 people
are put in a different environment and now suddenly we've got
this whole new element cast upon us. I mean, there's a new name
for the programme. Castupon. What happens to thirty-six people
when suddenly the country's eyes are cast upon them. It's extraordinary.'
Though to be later derided both by some viewers and a sprinkling
of his fellow castaways as short on brainpower, Ben's albeit
rambling ruminations had seized on a truth that had been picked
up so far by only one of the professional critics of the programmes.
'The genius of the project,' wrote Muriel Grey in the Sunday
Herald, 'is that it's not about creating a new society. It's
not even about how the bunch of handless, wilderness rookies
cope. It's about television itself.'