Alone In the Wild

Many television producers seem to be convinced that the format of any show can be improved by the addition of ‘celebrities’. In the case of Alone In The Wild the idea is to jazz up the “Bear Grylls/Ray Mears person trying to survive in the wilderness show” up shoving Z-listers into the middle of nowhere.

To be fair the opening episode does feature someone legitimately famous: former England cricketer- not to mention professional beer and kebab enthusiast Andrew ‘Freddie’ Flintoff.

He’s dispatched to the Okavango Delta in Botswana for a week and told to make the best of it. He has a camera strapped to him, is given minimal rations and told if he wants more grub he’s got to catch it himself.

It’s worth pointing out that he’s not that really alone: a local guide is shadowing him unseen with a large gun in case he gets into any trouble. Not to play down how lethal lions, elephants, etc. are  but I’m skeptical about how much danger he was actually in: if he followed basic wilderness training that should minimise any real risk.

However that’s not the take of the show’s narrator, who treats every minor incident as if its a sure sign of imminent death for poor Freddie.

In addition to near-constant references to the lions that prowl the  delta, the slightest activity on Flintoff’s part sees us gravely warned that he is burning valuable calories: something that’d be a bit more worrisome if he didn’t obviously have a considerable reserve.

Halfway through the episode, the narrator sombrely informs that not being eating properly is having ‘ a profound effect on Freddie’. Cue Freddie piping up to tell us ‘ I’ve just realized I’ve not had a poo in four days!’

Readers will be delighted to know that the next morning he managed a movement.

The lack of food is clearly a struggle for Flintoff, who famously loves his grub. His attempts to catch a fish are a miserable failure and while he does manage to retrieve some unidentifiable creature with gills, the look of disappointment on his face when he bites into it tells you all you need to know about its edibility: i.e. that it tastes worse than a Bernard Matthews’ Turkey Twizzler with a side order of cheese strings.

With only tiny portions of rice to sustain him, Flintoff is left to fantasise about the ghosts of dinners past.

“I’m thinking about sausages,” he proclaims at one point. “I like sausages. At 10 o’ clock tonight I’ll be thinking about a kebab.”

Despite being deprived of sausages and kebabs, Flintoff remains a really likeable fellow: a bluff amiable Lancastrian with a chipper disposition as well as a decent sense of humour.

“Bizarrely, I’ve come to see you as a ‘friend camera’” he tells his constant companion/recording device at one point. I half expected him to paint a smiley face on it and call it Wilson.

He’s is also entirely comfortable in his own skin, which makes him every bit as rare on the reality TV landscape as the animals he sees on the Delta.

“I’ve not come here to find myself, I know who I am,” he reflects towards the end of his trip. “I’ve not here to go on a journey, I just wanted to see some animals!”

And animals he sees are pretty great. It’s no David Attenborough documentary but he gets pretty close to some zebra, elephants and giraffes. Though sadly, not close enough to make them into that kebab he so desperately craves.

The camera he lugs around with him must be a pretty serious bit of kit as the footage is incredibly clear and at times beautiful. Though it doesn’t hurt when you’re filing a landscape as impressive as the Okavango delta: all yellow rolling plains and blue, blue skies.

And again Flintoff’s enthusiasm for everything around him is infectious. He’s very impressed at the sight of these mighty beasts, and that comes across very clearly to the viewer. Perhaps the highpoint of the whole show is the sheer glee his face shows  when he gets a glimpse of a giraffe, despite the fact it’s essentially a tall orange horse in a wig.

In the end that combination of Flintoff’s winning personality and the fantastic wildlife make the programme a success, though as future episodes appear to feature ‘celebrities’ like Jason Gardiner and Joe Pasquale getting soaked in torrential rain for extended periods, it’s hard to see them being anything like as successful.

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Alone in the Wild is on the Discovery Channel on Wednesdays at 9pm

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About Ian Dunn
I love avocados, WH Auden and dinosaurs but I don't like effort.

2 Responses to Alone In the Wild

  1. Napoleon says:

    You have to hand it to the Discovery Channel for taking the BBC’s idea of shoving the likes of Lenny Henry and Joanna Lumley into the wild to fend for themselves, updating the format for the modern age by doing absolutely nothing new and coming up with a carbon copy of the BBC’s idea of shoving the likes of Lenny Henry and Joanna Lumley into the wild to fend for themselves.

    Up next – Sky One’s Come Strictly Dancing.

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