The problem with gameshows is that if you can see who’s going to win a mile off, they’re no fun. Look at last year’s Big Brother: from the moment he fell down the stairs getting into the house, there was no way Pete wasn’t going to win it. It was a one-horse race, regardless of Channel 4’s valiant efforts to suggest we might want Glyn to win instead.
Shipwrecked has had similar problems lately. For anyone who doesn’t follow it, the basic idea of Shipwrecked: Battle Of The Islands is that there are two islands in the South Pacific, and every week a new twenty-something turns up and gets to decide which one to live on. At the end of a seemingly interminable amount of time, the island with the most people on it wins the money. Tiger Island has been in second place for a good six weeks now — lagging, at one point, six people behind Shark Island. This week’s episode saw them three people behind, with only two weeks left in the competition, and since they were told there wouldn’t be any new people this week, it looked like the Tigers had lost.
Except there wouldn’t be any point in the last few episodes if that were really the case, would there?
So, in the tradition of every good reality TV show, the creators threw in a last-minute twist. A third island and two new arrivals – plus another twist promised for this week – put the Tigers back in the game, and gave us viewers something to care about. (More or less: if this week’s two new arrivals had chosen to go to Shark Island, the Tigers really would have been sunk.)
In this case, the twist actually kind of worked. But with only nine days to go until the summer’s real event, Big Brother, kicks off again, you can guarantee Endemol will be plotting plenty more twists and turns. And the thing is, they usually suck.
Without getting into Big Brother too much; okay, twists might keep viewers interested, but they also take a lot of the fun out of the game. Putting in contestants who’ve already been voted out once is a stock ‘twist’ – but it undermines the rules of the game, which is confusing and also just plain wrong: if the idea is to stay in the game till the end, if you’ve already been chucked out once, that’s the end of it. It’s just not fair – and not sportsmanlike – to mess with that rule. But I’ll bet you cash money it’ll happen in this year’s Big Brother.
And next week’s Shipwrecked features another ‘twist’ – the trailer shows another two people showing up, and hints that there’s something special about them. Hm.
See, while I really want the Tigers to win now, I don’t think it’s fair that the Sharks have been winning for the whole game and now might be pipped to the post just because the people behind the scenes saw fit to throw a spanner in the works. (Metaphors, mixed, lots of ’em.) We all already know there’s nothing real about reality TV, but if the prize is awarded at random, what’s the point in even playing?