SOME TV series are just asking for a pummelling, as seemed the case with Channel 4’s latest reality show.
It practically offered its chin for a left hook with a decrepit old format (bunch of strangers forced to live together), a host who’s unable to change the record and the fact it’s a C4 reality show, three words to send shivers down the spine.
Just one tiny detail, however, spares The Island With Bear Grylls from a pasting. It’s cracking.
Thirteen ordinary men with only basic tools, their ingenuity and a couple of television cameras powered by magic dust must survive a month on a remote Pacific island.
The professionally outraged, naturally, cried sexism at the all-male line-up.
“Women,” C4 boss Jay Hunt responded, “are absent not because they are incapable but because they are so capable.”
No arguments from me.
Two episodes in, Grylls’ question: “Have British men lost the practical skills once passed down from father to son?” has been answered with an emphatic: “Damn right they have.”
Until the capture and slaughter of a 5ft crocodile on Monday, which remains remarkable TV even if producers did let it loose, this lot displayed all the hunting acumen of Elmer Fudd (Be wery, wery qwuiet. We’re hunting stingway) and were living off snails.
Just like I’m A Celebrity, the hungrier the campmates, the better the viewing, bolstered by excellent casting.
Though there’s really only one star, 24-year-old call centre worker Ryan, who entered bragging: “I did walk very far once with no shoes on, and that what was very challenging.”
Hunger has made him a man. Pelicans practically mocking the camp with great beaks full of fresh fish have made him a TV hero.
He snapped on day four, grabbed a rock and said: “I’m going to kill one. Dean, wait. Be stealthy...”
And with that, Ryan tore off down the beach like Eric Liddell in Chariots of Fire, hurled the rock à la Geoff Capes and... SPLASH!
The pelicans scarpered unharmed and lived to mock another day.
Which is more than you could say for Ryan, who punched the sand in frustration and broke his knuckle, telling medic Sam: “I was annoyed with myself.”
“Were you annoyed with the sand as well?
Ryan: “Well, I didn’t want to punch myself in a survival situation.”
Understated, superb dialogue like that is part of The Island’s charm, as is the fact Grylls’ only involvement is from afar as mister doom merchant: “Even though coconuts are a good source of energy and fluids, if it’s all you have, after three days it’s going to give you diarrhoea.”
I’ll start the conga now, shall I, Bear?
The real difference maker, though, is the absence of prize money.
No minor celebrity rocks up each dusk to announce who’s been voted out.
It’s a back-to-basics reality show, like the original Shipwrecked.
Can’t quite remember whatever happened to that.
Ah yes. Now it comes to me. It was ruined when a certain broadcaster turned it into a Big Brother clone.
Now who’d do something like that?
THIS Morning astro-twerp Russell Grant warned Michelle Keegan that reality TV could cost her credibility for acting roles after Corrie because: “Michelle is a Gemini, she has Virgo rising and her moon in Leo, which is the big, big picture because Jupiter, with its delicious energy, in the middle of July is going to move into Leo.”
And not because it’s stating the face-slappingly obvious.
THIS week’s Couch Potato Spudulikes...
* Tony Hadley’s BBC Watchdog cameo.
* Gabriel Byrne in Vikings, on History.
* The look on Andi Peters’ face as he pulled out the name “Michal Foc” to play Good Morning Britain’s Wheel of Cash.
* The name of Tyger Takes On Porn’s 54-year-old cougar, Cindy Gallop. (There’ll be no “rides like a horse” jokes from me.)
* Mary the 4ft 11in jiu-jitsu martial artist flattening Matt Baker.
* And, also on The One Show, Robbie Savage playing for his old Sunday league side in a prosthetic disguise, leading elbow-first for headers, lunging in two-footed and letting himself down with his first touch. They recognised him instantly.
SHIRLEY Carter, on EastEnders: “Mother of three. You wouldn’t know it to look at me, would you?”
Not at all, Shirls. Mother of seven, maybe, but three? Never.
THIS week’s Newshound of the Week award goes to...
Good Morning Britain’s Sean Fletcher to Judy Murray: “Let’s talk about this campaign to get more people playing tennis. What’s it all about?”
Take a wild stab in the dark, dumbo.
EAT your heart out, Captain Scott.
Here’s TLC’s Charlotte Crosby at Canada’s frozen tundra, where the windchill is -50C: “I think I’m going to be a really good Arctic explorer.
“Apart from if I get too cold I’m just going to have to take a break from it all because I can’t be bothered to be freezing and stuff.”
More entertaining nonsense from the UK’s cultural attaché, who single-handedly disproved the myth all Geordies go out in the snow in T-shirts and explained to her Inuit hosts why hunting seal is wrong: “That’s like me going out eating Robert Downey Jr or Pamela Anderson.”
Save that for The Charlotte Crosby Experience series two. I can see it now.
BEN Shephard says Susanna Reid should be better known for her “brilliant journalism” than her shapely legs.
Exhibit A: her final, wrong-footing question to US Ambassador Matthew Barzun on Wednesday: “There’s another issue that, as American Ambassador, people might hope you would comment on – big American company Pfizer wanting to take over AstraZeneca, a British company. Should those at AstraZeneca be worried?”
Good question. Keep him on the ropes, Suze.
Barzun: “It’s not a topic I feel it’s appropriate for me to dive into at this time.”
He’s reeling. You’ve got him now. Floor him.
“So that’s something we can’t talk about. Thank you very much indeed for joining us.”
Still, nice legs though.
CHARLOTTE Crosby’s musical critique of traditional Inuit throat singing on her TLC travelogue: “It was just like a load of moans and groans and grunts.”
See also, ITV weekdays, 12.30pm.
THIS week’s Couch Potato Spuduhates...
* Dave channel failing to sign Kerry Katona and Martine McCutcheon for 24 Hours To Go Broke.
* This Morning’s Dr Ranj’s medical expertise for chronic pain sufferer Mark Goddard, who chopped off his hand with a homemade guillotine: “We wouldn’t ever recommend doing that.”
* Embarrassing Bodies’ Christian Jessen asking Lynne, 51: “Tell us how we can help you,” when the poor woman was sat there, with a huge black blob ballooning out of her nose, like The Muppets’ Hugga Wugga.
* And EastEnders’ Shirley failing to follow: “Come on in, go straight through,” to Father Ted’s Mrs Doyle actress Pauline McLynn with: “Go on, go on, go on, go on, go on, go on, go on.”
DR Christian Jessen, on Embarrassing Bodies: Live From The Clinic: “135,000 of you have taken our dyslexia test. The occupation recording the highest traits for dyslexia is...”
Good Morning Britain’s news-ticker writers?