So Discovery have told Bear Grylls to take the year off and hired a group of celebrities to do his survivalling for him. It’s a decision that certainly doesn’t make financial sense (we doubt that Freddy Flintoff et al accept scout badges as a method of payment) but it could make for some great TV.
The ex-England captain and ‘Scourge of the Aussies’ kicked Alone In The Wild off this evening and it isn’t difficult to work out why series producers decided to open with the retired cricketer. If any channel knows who their viewers are then it’s Discovery, and as the archetypal ‘bloke’s bloke’, Flintoff will be the biggest name for a large section of this show’s middle-aged, former motorbike-owning target audience. The Ashes-winning, pedalo-jacker is undoubtedly a lad legend, but how would he cope on his own for a week in the Botswana Bush with nothing but a camera for company?
“I’ve not come to find myself, I know what I am. I’m not on some journey, like some people. I’ve come to see some animals!” says Flintoff frankly, and he gets his wish as the week progresses with Zebras and Giraffes passing by his camp. There are even some nervous moments as he sits in his tent Blair-Witching into his camera and waiting for a pack of lions to leave him alone. He may have a back up team a couple of kilometres away, but they wouldn’t have been much good if any predators decided to investigate one-man Eurohike.
Flintoff may see his fair share of wildlife, but he fails miserably in his attempts to catch anything delicious to roast on his fire. After a couple of days spent by the local swamp with a fishing line, he gives up and decides to live off his emergency rations (two small sachets of rice) and some questionable fruit harvested from a nearby tree.
He might be a rubbish hunter and lacklustre gatherer, but what’s really impressive is the level of mental strength the ex-cricketer shows in enduring the full 8 days on a diet that he usually wouldn’t have considered enough food to constitute a single meal. The baggyness of his trousers tells its own story by the end of the programme. “It’s strange how I’m coming to think of the camera as a mate..” he says as the hunger sets in on the final day. Thankfully, the support team pick him up before he goes all Castaway on us..