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Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Eden: How long will channel's 4 year long experiment last?

Contributed Shona L Craven

I've been eagerly awaiting Eden since the start of the year, when I happened to meet a TV producer who was having farewell drinks with a friend before going off the grid in the Highlands for a year. It’s fun to see Jane featuring so prominently from the get-go: larking around, negotiating, looking on dubiously as guys chop down trees and setting up her own little condom trading post.

The press for the show asks one question: "What if we could start again?" The premise of the show is not unlike that of Castaway 2000, in which a group of individuals, couples and families were shipped off to Taransay in the Outer Hebrides. I don’t remember much about it apart from charming Ben Fogle and his labrador, lots of tedious meetings and voting exercises, and a bearded eccentric trying to flee the island on a homemade raft.

There are no children in Eden and there’s also no island – instead, the participants are living on 600 fenced-off acres of mainland, where they have a generous starter pack of animals, tools and seedlings but will ultimately have to fend for themselves. The cast includes a shepherdess, a carpenter, a plumber, a vet and two doctors, so they should at least have the skills to survive. But what kind of society will they build for themselves? And will they last the year without walkouts or punch-ups? Indeed, will the group survive this first episode, which seems to document their first few weeks (some kind of time stamp would be helpful)?

One of my first thoughts when watching this opening episode was how much this bunch won’t know about. They won’t know about the Brexit vote, or the new Prime Minister, the fresh wave of terror attacks, the latest police killings of black Americans and the retaliatory strikes against officers. They won’t know that a British MP was shot and stabbed to death in the street. In such a short space of time they’ve missed so much, and I can’t help but envy them a little.

Life coach Tara says the escape from the gloomy news cycle is part of the appeal, but I wonder if she might prove to have one of the most difficult jobs in the group. The contribution of many of the others is clearly delineated, but will she be expected to act as camp counsellor for all two dozen, around the clock? Or will Jane have to keep on performing the tricky dual role of keeping a lid on potential drama while simultaneously documenting it?

Anton isn’t a team player, vegetarian yoga instructor Jasmine is a bit flakey, and Stephen the chef is adorable.

I’d have liked a formal introduction to the cast at the top of the show – or even a cut-out-and-keep cast guide on the Channel 4 website – but it looks like we’ll be introduced to everyone on a need-to-know basis. And what we need to know in this opening episode is that adventurer Anton isn’t a team player, vegetarian yoga instructor Jasmine is a bit flakey, and Stephen the chef is adorable. Oh, and weepy vet Rob and “forager” Katie are a self-proclaimed “couple of wankers” who are basically in lurve with each other already.

All the cutaways of goats getting into thing they shouldn’t have been getting into were making me tense, but I had no idea we were building up to a death scene. I feel for Rob, who might have expected a bit of help on the animal front from shepherdess Caroline – but her credentials were called into question when she lost half of the sheep and declared that she’d searched “the whole island” for them. Um, hen, you’re not on an island. Keep searching.

We’ve still got plenty more people to meet – include the Scottish guy who darkly suggested the group might have to withhold food from an increasingly annoying Anton, and the junior doctor who’s fled to Eden to escape from Jeremy Hunt. I’m looking forward to it.

Eden Continues on Monday on 9.00pm on Channel 4 


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