Last March, 23 contestants on a British reality show journeyed to a remote part of the Scottish Highlands to start a new life for themselves outside of civilization for one year. Called “Eden,” the show was something of a sociological experiment, created to explore questions on happiness in modern life.
Although they wouldn’t have contact with the outside world, the outside would connect with them, from afar, watching members of the group who had agreed to open their lives to a reality show format in exchange for a slice of fame. With a film crew embedded in the group, episodes of “Eden” began airing on Channel 4 last July.
They stopped airing the next month. The experiment, however, went on.
Yes, that means there’s a group of people out there who just learned Brexit is happening and Donald Trump is president of the U.S. But Channel 4 confirmed to The Huffington Post that the remaining contestants ― as many as 13 reportedly left over the course of the filming period ― were also not previously aware that they weren’t appearing on TV back home for seven months from August until their 12-month stint ended this week.
The network has since stated that an update on “Eden,” culled from months of footage, will air later this year, “including the highs and the lows.” And, in its defense, Channel 4 never explicitly stated when new episodes would come out after the first “batch” of four.
“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,” a spokesperson said in a statement.
But, evidenced by reactions on social media, a burst of footage followed by silence was not what viewers expected. Or, perhaps, even the participants themselves, who gave up a year to appear on a TV show.
Various outlets have posited that bad ratings forced the show off-air. That idea seems to find support in the network’s response to fan questions on social media in late 2016, when a representative couldn’t say when new installments would air. Social media pages for “Eden” stopped regularly updating with photos and other tidbits of information last fall.
Unlike other reality shows, the group wasn’t given any tasks but to create a society, and no one was to be crowned a winner. Life did not appear comfortable; flies were reportedly vicious. The group was given livestock and some modern equipment including a shotgun, a rowboat, saws, cooking utensils, some food to start out with and ― importantly ― condoms, alcohol and tobacco.
Were the results of the experiment simply too boring for TV? If so, why wouldn’t they get to come home?
For now, additional details on the fate of the “Eden” participants ― including the exact number who stuck around until the end ― are scarce. British media reported signs of a failed experiment, including reports of participants spotted at a dentist’s office in the nearest town. (While the 23 originally included a doctor, a vet, and a chef, the doctor reportedly abandoned the camp.)
The network told viewers that many in the group felt “disillusioned,” and wondered how they would fare while completely cut off from society. Now we have to wonder how they’ll fare knowing society, too, was cut off from them.