Mutiny, Channel 4 | reviews, news & interviews
Mutiny, Channel 4
Mutiny, Channel 4
Modern masculinity in crisis measures itself against history's maritime survivors
The masochistic reality show heralds a culture with an inferiority complex. There have been documentary re-running the race to the South Pole. Countless series place modern Britons in historical contexts where the dietary, sanitary and heating arrangements leave much to be desired. At the heart of them all is an anxiety that mod cons – radiators, white goods, frozen readymeals – have softened us. Are we simply not fit to lace the boots of our forebears?
The latest endurance test is possibly the genre’s horriblest yet: a reboot of the journey undertaken by Captain Bligh and his loyal sailors after they were turfed off HMS Bounty in a mutiny led by Fletcher Christian in 1789. Mutiny is Iron Man meets Jerome K Jerome. A bunch of chaps not wholly suited to the task are confined to replica vessel, 23 feet in length, and told to follow Bligh’s path across the Pacific Ocean for 60 days and 4,000 miles. Larks among sharks.
There are only so many hardships that an hour’s airtime can convey
Why? At the end we will presumably discover something about the inner core of modern man and renew our respect for the sailors who had to do this for real, without life vests, waterproofs and a vessel filming them from afar. The cast features the usual collection of contemporary hardnuts, ocean-going experts and have-a-go wannabes eager to test themselves against something more meaningful than the 20-pint challenge. “I want to be a better story for my family,” said Ben, from south London, who seems to have consumed quite a few pies in his time. It’s a motto that neatly nails the age of the self-curated narratives of social media.
At the head of the operation is Ant Middleton, formerly of the Special Boat Service, now retooled as Channel 4’s go-to survival specialist. He reckoned that this would be “tougher for me than it was for Bligh” because Bligh had a boatful of sailors and he’s got Chris, a scally ex-con looking to redeem himself by sailing solo around the world. He might be happier in the solo environment where there’s no one to order him about. A couple of days in he was already making himself unpopular, no doubt in the interests of historical accuracy.For food they have dried beef and biscuits made of salt, water and flour. At one point they moored off a volcanic island (pictured above) and Ant went ashore to track down food. He pointed to an animal track, confidently followed it for six hours and came back with a bunch of coconuts. The island has no wildlife. “On the whole we considered ourselves on as miserable a spot of land as could well be imagined,” recorded Bligh.
There are only so many hardships that an hour’s airtime can convey. But the ticklist includes shitting over the side, sleeping inches from someone else’s uncleansed nethers, trench hand, sailing in storm-tossed seas near rocks and reefs in pitch darkness. On the plus side they seem to have issued themselves with sunglasses, but these weren’t much use in a three-day monsoon which looked excruciatingly miserable. The worst of it happened in the ad break.
The mutiny on the Bounty took place, lest we forget, of the French Revolution. While there are quotations from Bligh’s diary, a little more nuanced insight into the meaning of Fletcher Christian’s mini-upheaval of the established order would be welcome. They’ve got a doctor, a carpenter, a cook and sundry sailors on board. A historian would have been handy. Plus maybe a shrink, to explore in more detail why these blokes undergo such privations for the entertainment of millions slumped on sofas.
Subscribe to theartsdesk.com
Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £2.95 per month or £25 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.
To take an annual subscription now simply click here.
And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?