When it comes to keeping it real and popular, nobody has done it better than the British.
"Castaway," the series currently airing on BBC America, makes those other folks who were on that tropical isle for a few weeks last summer look like, well, pantywaists.
This group of 36 volunteers headed off to a remote, windblown Scottish island for a full year: no tribal councils, no prizes, no voting. Just the opportunity to build a community from scratch. Twenty-nine men, women, and children stayed on the island for the full 365 days, accompanied by a BBC television crew documenting their struggles.
"Ours was far more than just a television project," says Ben Fogle, a dead ringer for Prince William and already a media darling in Britain, where the show has aired for a while. "It was a way of life. And there was no money incentive for us; it was the experience that we got from it."
"I think the motivation would have been very different had we had money involved," says Cynthia McVey, a psychologist assigned to assess the "tribe."
"The whole thing was to get people with different motivations who wanted to experience the year for different reasons and also who weren't really interested in financial gain but were doing it ... for the experience itself."
Producers have dubbed the entire event a social experiment, not a media event. "There was a prize involved, but the prize was the experience," says producer Chris Kelly. "These guys couldn't have had the experience without the investment, clearly, of BBC Television.
"What they made of the experience was the stuff of the television programs. And that had a lot of game-show elements to it: it's entertaining, compelling, happy, sad, disgusting, sexy - you know it has all those aspects to it, but the beauty is that they're going to take away something much richer, I think, than any of the 'Survivors,' even that man with his million dollars there."
(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Publishing Society