The unacknowledged subtitle of Channel 4’s new reality series Eden (Mondays) is Die, Hippies! Die! Obviously they’re not going to admit this because that wouldn’t be right. But I’m sure Channel 4 is hoping that a terrible Lord of the Flies-type scenario will unfold for the 23 victims who’ve volunteered to get back to nature on a remote Scottish peninsula for 12 months, in which they hunt one another down with sharpened sticks, with hideously watchable consequences.
In episode one, my money would have been on Anton as chap-best-placed-to-survive. Middle-aged, stroppy and northern, an adventurer by trade, Anton very quickly decided that he absolutely could not cope with the bunch of mostly twentysomething special snowflakes (yoga teacher; lifestyle coach; marine conservationist) with whom he’d have to spend the next year.
And who could blame him? There they all were, stranded in the wilderness, dependent for their survival on their wits, a few basic starter supplies (fishing kit, hunting rifle, sleeping bags, and so on) and their ability to make the most of their livestock (goats, pigs, sheep, chickens) and their various fruit and vegetable seedlings. So guess what their first major construction project was after they’d sorted out rudimentary spring/summer accommodation…
If you guessed ‘teepee-shaped community centre-cum-sweat lodge’ then you’re absolutely right. God knows what the people in charge of food provision thought. No, actually, we know what they thought: they let it pass with barely a murmur of complaint. This is the monster we have created with ‘all shall have prizes’, non-competitive sports days and ‘circle time’: a generation so determined to let everyone vouchsafe their vacuous opinion that they’d rather starve to death than spoil the touchy-feely fun by saying, ‘Guys. Do you not think a greenhouse should take priority over a group hug?’
Hence Anton’s retreat to the woods to build a mini-camp of his own. He’d noticed that the site of the summer camp was subject to 70mph gales and that this wouldn’t be much fun in winter. But no one else — apart from his one other ally, the fiftysomething Brixton carpenter — wanted to hear about the nasty, boring reality thing. Instead, they preferred to bicker about whether it was fair for Anton to pillage from the communal supplies when he was showing so little community spirit.
So far, so very promising: Anton strips off and daubs himself in deer blood; Anton sharpens his hatchet… Except, it didn’t work out as you might have expected. Instead, in a brief cold snap when the camp was blanketed in snow, it was Anton who succumbed, returning to the fold looking all pitiful and freezing, there to be welcomed by hugging girlies. (Unless, perhaps, it’s just an evil ruse and he’s biding his time.)
This unpredictability is one reason I’m so very much enjoying Eden. Yes, of course, there are occasions when you want to sneer — such as the one where the girl who’s the vegetarian blubs when they kill their first piggie — but more often it’s moving and life-affirming watching people whom you’ve been wanting to give a good slap being unexpectedly brave or generous or capable, and saving the day.
Actually, it’s almost better than reading a novel: diverse characters — whom we know increasingly intimately — plunged into crisis, some rising to the occasion, others cracking up, with dei ex machina and twists and turns as lively as any in fiction. For example, the death of the goat — that was sad because we witnessed both its last moments groaning in agony because it had scoffed the chicken feed (who knew there was stuff goats couldn’t eat?) and also the near-tearful distress of the vet, powerless to save it; the arrival of some random Scots people in a speedboat who leave them a care package of choccies and beer; the bit where they brew their own hooch and some of them visibly cop off with one another: gosh, isn’t TV getting ever more prurient?
Incidentally, chaps, if you want to get your end away in this modern world when most girls don’t want to know because they think they’re feminists and they think you’re all rapists, this invaluable Channel 4 social experiment offered some very helpful pointers. Either a) be a vet and be seen palpably caring about animal welfare or b) be a chef and pay especial attention to the blonde veggie females in your midst with choice non-meat titbits: those are your two best options for pulling hotties.
They started filming in about March. That means they’ve got a summer of relative abundance still to come. Followed by the bit where the Scottish winter comes, the snow descends and Anton retreats to his sheltered fastness which has space for only about six. Whatever happens, it ain’t going to be pretty. Really, I just can’t wait.