Today’s reality television shows have lost the organic nature of trailblazing programmes like Castaway, according to Ben Fogle.
The TV presenter and explorer became one of the first ever stars of the genre when he appeared in Castaway 2000, a programme following the lives of 36 people living on a remote Scottish island for 12 months.
Since then shows like Big Brother, The X Factor, Britain’s Got Talent, The Apprentice and Love Island have propelled previously unknown people into the public eye and made household names of the likes of Jade Goody, Gemma Collins and Susan Boyle.
Fogle, now a 46-year-old married father of two, said to become successful now in reality television you had to stand out from the crowd.
“The main problem for me now is that reality TV tends to attract people who go on the shows for all the right reasons or for all the wrong reasons, depending on your perspective,” Fogle said.
“A lot of people are drawn to these shows now for fame and fortune. I haven’t helped matters achieving a career out of it, so I’m aware that I am partly culpable, apologies for that.
“But when you apply for these shows, you have to stand out.
“To stand out, you have to become a caricature of yourself, you have to become even posher, or you have to become even dumber, or you have to become even quirkier, or more camp, or more homophobic – something that makes you stand out.
“What that does is takes away the organicness and the naturalness of a show like Castaway.”
Fogle has forged a successful television career presenting shows like Countryfile and Animal Park and has also written several books about his adventures.
— Ben Fogle (@Benfogle) October 1, 2020
He was speaking at the Cheltenham Literature Festival to promote his new book, Inspire: Life Lessons From The Wilderness, which was written during the lockdown.
Fogle said the one positive to come from the lockdown is that it forced people to slow down.
“Everyone has been forced to slow down, everyone’s being forced to have more sleep, more time with their families,” he said.
“Lockdown gave us all the chance to slow our lives down and I kind of think it’s what the planet needs.
“I think most people I’ve spoken to have agreed that maybe we were living a little bit too fast. And I certainly include myself in that.
“I was running from one trip to the next, I was living on aeroplanes which had a big enough impact on the environment and I found myself running from one thing to the next and I never had time to dwell and enjoy the now and to reflect on the then.”
Fogle said recent experience of being trolled on Twitter has led him to step back from the site and devote his account to promoting various charities.
“It was the late Terry Wogan who told me very early on in my career, he warned me that the more people like you, the more there will be another sector of people that absolutely hate you,” Fogle said.
“We’ve lost the area of fair conversation, which I think is a little bit sad now because I miss it.
“It’s now so heavily politicised that even if we started talking about Covid-19, you will instantly be bracketed either left or right.
“That’s not really me and I have found myself retreating a little bit away. With Twitter, I decided that it might be an opportunity to share my platform with various charities.
“As the father of two kids, I find it a scary world they are embarking in where anonymous trolls can cause so much pain and anguish to people who are only trying to do the right thing.”
Fogle said the wilderness had taught him to be kind.
“I think when you spend time in the wilderness, it teaches you to be more respectful to be more caring to ration what you use and by doing that, I think you become a better, more compassionate person,” he said.
“It’s just about being more open-minded about everyone and allowing other people to have their own opinions and about embracing life and just being a little bit happier and a little bit kinder.”