‘Eden: Paradise Lost’ is a reality television series, broadcast on Channel 4 in 2017. A sequel to ‘Eden’, which broadcast the previous year, the show focused on what went wrong after the original broadcast ended due to poor ratings (The Guardian, 2017). The programme’s format changed in light of this; unlike ‘Eden’, it featured sit-down interviews with the contestants intercut with their daily activities (allowing actions to be explained, etc.) The new show was heavily edited into the “best and worst of the year-long filming” after the show became “dark and feral” (Scottish Herald, 2017).
‘Eden’, as a reality show, was unlike a lot that has come before. The reality show formula has changed a lot since its creation over two decades ago, with shows like MTV’s ‘The Real World’ and ‘Big Brother’ (British Psychological Society Digest, 2016). The supposedly unscripted programmes were very popular amongst its outset; the third series of Big Brother’s final captured over five million viewers (The Guardian, 2009). However, over time reality television is looked upon less favourably. Whilst ‘Big Brother’ was originally a social experiment, the scripted challenges and certain controversies (as well as a move to Channel 5 in 2011) has changed the programme’s fortune, only pulling in nine hundred-thousand live viewers (The Independant, 2017).
In order to differentiate itself from other reality TV, ‘Eden’ was viewed more as a social experiment at a time when “disenfranchisement and interest in self-sufficient living” had been growing (Radio Times, 2016). Channel 4 never used the word ‘reality’ once in its promotion, describing it as an “experience of 23 UK men and women as they face the challenge of building a new life and creating a new society from scratch” (Channel 4, 2015). In my opinion, Channel 4 attempted to bring the popular format of its shows like ‘Gogglebox’ and ‘One Born Every Minute’ (an unscripted, unmediated programme with fixed cameras) to a more traditional reality show.
Channel 4’s remit states “We drive innovation, taking more risks than other channels” (Channel 4, 2017). ‘Eden’ and its sequel scream risk and innovation. KEO Films, the production company behind the show, reportedly lost £1.7 million whilst filming the programme (Scottish Mail, 2017). The show’s viewership went from 1.7 million viewers to eight hundred-thousand over the space of four shows, resulting in its cancellation (Scottish Herald, 2017). The show was a big risk, unfortunately one that didn’t pay off.
The Guardian, 2017, collected 14th October 2017
The (Scottish) Herald, 2017, collected 14th October 2017
The British Physolological Society Digest, 2016, collected 14th October 2017
The Guardian, 2009, collected 14th October 2017
The Independant, 2017, collected 14th October 2017
Radio Times, 2016, collected 14th October 2017
Channel 4, 2015, collected 14th October 2017
Channel 4, 2017, collected 14th October 2017
Excerpt from The Scottish Mail, 2016, collected 14th October 2017