NBC's The Island

I caught the first two episodes of this network survival show last night and was pleasantly surprised.

The show is hosted by (perhaps produced by?) Bear Grylls and the hook is that they take 14 American men with little or no survival experience and put them on a desert island to survive for a month with minimal survival tools. The twist is that there is no crew on the island. They are shooting the whole thing themselves. My initial reaction was that this was a bullshit premise as the teaser clips and outtakes all looked very well shoot but, as it turns out, four out of the 14 men are professional camera men with documentary experience. The thing is, though, they are participants along with everyone else. In some ways they have it hardest of the bunch as they are having to do everything everyone else is, but while lugging around cameras.

I think what’s making this show work for me is that they have avoided the pitfall of stunt casting. The people they picked come from a wide variety of backgrounds, an engineer, an executive, a fire fighter, a surgeon, etc, but, while they have no direct survival experience, they are all pretty competent and they’ve obviously received training. The producers seemed to realize that the situation itself would provide enough challenge and conflict and they selected a group of people who have a realistic shot. The end result is a lot more gripping than a bunch of reality TV primadonnas fighting with each other constantly.

Cast bios at the bottom of this page:

It sounds really interesting. I will check it out. I am a Canadian so I hope I can get access. You are an American right?

Sometimes the NBC site blocks me and says time zone is off, or only American access, etc…

Yeah, not sure about access in Canada.

It is up on youtube or some other site yet?

It is working for me. Excited to watch it.

I’m not a big fan of this. You say it avoids the reality show primadonna problem, but it still feels very deliberately constructed. Maybe it’s just guilt by association, but Grylls’s involvement kind of poisons it for me and makes me assume that it’s a lot more of a produced experience than they’re indicating. The camera-men contestants are just more artifice.

While the conceit isn’t inherently terrible, the tone is pretty offensive to me: “Americans males are SUCH PUSSIES! The sit around and use computers all day! Are their BALLS BIG ENOUGH to survive on an island without Facebook, like a REAL MAN?” I’m not super into the social criticism stuff, but the term “toxic masculinity” comes to mind almost unbidden.

When there’s stuff like Naked and Afraid or Survivorman out there, I just don’t see the point of this.

This is the american version of the BBC show “Bear Gryll’s The Island”. I just finished watching series 1 of that show and it was pretty good and worth watching.

I don’t disagree with either of your concerns CLWheeljack, but for me the first two episodes were compelling enough to dis-spell them both. In fact, the first of your concerns was one that I had explicitly going into the proceedings and the second was one that struck me in the opening minutes of the show.

I watched the first episode. It was really good. Thanks so much for sharing. Looking forward to keep following it.

I like it better than the real Survivor in some ways. They seem like better and more genuine people.

Righbug, have you continued watching it? What do you think.

I was caught off guard by how abruptly it ended. I didn’t realize it was only six episodes but, honestly, I don’t know if it could have sustained much longer than that. The human dynamics were interesting but, unlike Survivor where the game is structured to keep those dynamics in constant flux, on the Island they settled into predictable routines. It might have been interesting to see how that would have played out over six months if they were really and truly stranded though!

Anyway, overall I enjoyed it. We’ve learned that professional documentary cameraman are pretty darn adaptable and resilient!