LONDON — The contestants of a British reality show that marooned them in the wilderness for a year as a social experiment have returned to civilization — only to discover the series was taken off air several months ago and no one bothered to tell them.
The Channel 4 program, “Eden,” assembled 23 men and women and dispatched them to a remote corner of the Scottish Highlands, where they were told to set up a self-sufficient community. The group was cut off from any contact with the outside world, and had to “decide on their own rules and laws, build their own shelter, grow their own food and raise their own livestock,” according to a statement released when the show was first announced.
The year-long experiment was recorded by a four-strong crew as well as personal cameras and a fixed rig. Four episodes of the show – covering March, April and May – were broadcast last summer. But ratings slipped from 1.7 million to 800,000, leading Channel 4 to pull the plug on further updates.
No one bothered to tell the remaining contestants, who reportedly endured boredom and infighting, were reduced at one point to eating chicken feed, and only emerged last week from their less than splendid isolation to discover that their fellow Brits voted to leave the European Union and Donald Trump was elected president of the United States.
Channel 4 has not commented on the situation except to say that it would air footage covering the whole “experiment” 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,” the channel said in a statement. “That’s why we did it, and the story of their time, including the highs and the lows, will be shown later this year.”
According to media reports, there were plenty of lows. Thirteen of the 23 contestants quit the show during the year as sexual jealousy, infighting and hunger took their toll. Tara Zieleman, the first to quit, claimed she had been bullied, while local residents said that contestants were caught smuggling in junk food and alcohol and that some had been treated by a local dentist after eating chicken feed laced with grit.
“It has not done this area any favors – it has just not lived up to expectations,” local resident Maria Macpherson was quoted as saying.
None of the 10 contestants who stuck it out to the end has spoken out yet about the experience.