Imagine emerging from the harsh wilderness — where you’d spent the last 12 months shooting a reality show — and discovering that no one was watching. Worse still, you also find out that the channel that was supposed to broadcast your show actually pulled it off the air long ago.
That happened to over a dozen people who signed up to take part in the U.K. reality show Eden, which was produced by Channel 4. Billed as a year-long “social experiment” (think Survivor meets Alone), 23 strangers were dropped off in the remote Scottish Highlands to build a self-sufficient community with no electricity and no modern tools. The contestants were accompanied by a camera crew of four, and were also expected to shoot their own footage on personal cameras.
Eden premiered in July of 2016, and Channel 4 only aired four episodes (which showcased the contestants’ ordeals over March, April and May), but then abruptly stopped the inaugural season in August as the show’s ratings took a dive.
The Guardian reports that viewership dropped from 1.7 million per episode to less than half, 800,000 per episode, by May.
Despite the show’s sort-of cancellation, the participants were not told, and continued to live in the wilderness. Not all 23 could hack it, with reports of 13 people leaving the set due to various reasons, including hunger, jealousy and fighting, not to mention the Highlands’ notorious and relentless midges.
Local paper The Press and Journal reports that the show’s filming had become a joke to local residents, who said that several contestants had sneaked alcohol and junk food into their community.
Allegedly, some of the contestants were so hungry they ate chicken feed, which then damaged their teeth — so they had to go to a nearby town to get dentistry work done. (Channel 4 would not confirm that anybody left the show, or that any of these adverse events occurred, saying, “We know people are interested in hearing about the community, but we would not want to spoil the series for viewers.”)
One of the show’s participants, Tom Wah, tweeted that he left Eden because “it wasn’t what I was told it was going to be.” (That tweet has now been deleted.) He went on to say that “what you see on TV is all bulls–t. You’re not seeing the whole picture. The programme is extremely misleading.”
Wah still called it an “amazing experience,” despite his early exit from the show.
@tomelardo amazing experience, amazing, it's just a shame you don't see the good side of what we did whilst we was there
— Tom Wah (@Tom_wah) August 11, 2016
In a statement to British media, Channel 4 says that the unaired episodes will find their way to the small screen “later this year.”
“The appeal of Eden is that it was a real experiment, and when filming began we had no idea what the results would be and how those taking part would react to being isolated for months in a remote part of the British Isles. That’s why we did it, and the story of their time — including the highs and the lows — will be shown later this year.”