Wednesday, October 25, 2006

My money's on the big white fella

Just when you thought reality TV couldn't get any more absurd, the bods at ITV have come up with a whizzer new idea: Big Brother meets Wildlife on One, in a programme called "Extinct".

The format, it seems, is a literal interpretation of the "Survivor" concept, for endangered species - although rather than the different creatures being forced to work together to complete a variety of tasks, their cases will be championed, a la "Great Britons", by different celebrities. Of course, if the animals could learn to work together to build a fire or a beach hut, as in "Survivor", they probably wouldn't be so endangered in the first place, but that maybe another matter.

The choice of eight species to vote for seems to be a triumph of the telegenic: Hyacinth Macaw, Bengal Tiger, Asiatic Elephant, Leatherback Turtle, Mountain Gorilla, Orang-Utan, Polar Bear and, of course, the Giant Panda. This is somewhat in contrast to the celebrities lined up to speak on their behalf - the likes of Michael Portillo, David "Poirot" Suchet and Graeme le Saux among others. Portillo, in fact, asked us to vote for Queen Elizabeth I in the top 10 of "Great Britons", but only got her into seventh place. Perhaps he'll have better luck with the Hyacinth Macaw.

The winning species in the poll will get 50% of the prize money, with the other half divvied up among the losers. The article doesn't say how much this is likely to be (or what they'll spend it on), but it will be taken from the premium rate phone calls the viewers will make to vote for their favourite. Thus if it's a ratings disaster (shurely unlikely, given ITV's recent track record...), the whole exercise won't really help anyone.

Although a laudable attempt to tap into the typical British viewer's love of animals, I think it's a shame the show won't be speaking up for some less glamorous varmints or any which are native to the UK (such as the Peregrine Falcon, Red Squirrel or North Sea Cod). I suspect the Polar Bear may come out on top, not because it's any more deserving than the others, but because its human representative is Anneka Rice. I foresee a triumphant return to TV for Ms Rice, much like the one Noel Edmonds has made (rather creepily if you ever watch the show) with "Deal or No Deal". There's nothing the people like more than an 80s revival, especially if there are lots of close-ups of Anneka's behind as she chases the bears across the frozen wastes of Svalbard.

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