The Bridge (Channel 4) is at just over its halfway point, and Saga Norén is yet to appear in her little green sports car to talk about how much she likes sex while solving Scandinavia’s most twisted murders. Alas, this is The Bridge, not The Bridge: the latest in a long line of survival shows where contestants must work together in order to reach an island in the middle of a lake, where £100,000 is being held. Or at least they think it is. In order to jazz up an exercise wheeled out by corporate away-days, various dastardly twists have been introduced, reducing the prize fund and – more importantly – causing everyone to argue with each other, all the time.
This is standard survival-show fare. The contestants are kept hungry, so they argue about how hungry they are. They do not all hold the same view of teamwork, so they argue about who is pulling their weight and who is not. Nobody seems capable of agreeing on much, which, given that all they have to do is string a few logs on to some plastic, ad infinitum, is quite remarkable. The actual task of bridge-building appears to be so repetitive that it is barely shown on screen. Instead, they bicker and bicker.
There is so much bickering. By this point of the challenge, the team should be far closer to Prize Island – as nobody is calling it – than they are, but because their strategy appears to be prioritising arguing over building, there is still quite a lot of work to do. “Everyone is so fucked,” says Zac, the dancing Dream Boy who is at least hungry and grumpy enough to stop talking about his six-pack for five seconds.
The dastardly twist this week is an offer of not just food, but a feast. The group is presented with a choice: get an all-you-can-eat buffet in exchange for a few hours of bridge-building time or stay hungry, and keep working towards the prize. This was an intriguing test of delayed gratification, and even though there is a notional £100,000 at stake, most people opted for the short-term fix of a day off and a good meal. As a dedicated fan of buffets, I am not one to judge, but it’s hard to watch them justify it with talk of “morale” without starting to think like one of those Facebook memes about how older generations bathed in coal dust and ate candles, and still won two world wars.
Oddly, I want to know more about the actual bridge-building
Not everyone was on board with the feast. Those who voted against it – the vote, by the way, involved putting ballot papers into a box which, given that everyone had to write their names against what they had decided to do, and this was then read out to everyone else, seemed like a colossal waste of time – were rightly frustrated. I continue to feel for Sly, who has divided some viewers, but who has a get-on-with-it attitude that keeps clashing with some of his teammates’ more lacklustre efforts. Tara, who also elected to work, rather than eat, declared that “this is more important than a Victoria sponge”, as the two of them surveyed a wonky, half-arsed line of wood that isn’t looking like a promising path to a life-changing amount of money.
There are some moments of loveliness. The growing bond between Sly and Julie is sweet, and we get to hear more about Sarah, who joined the army at 16, and whom the younger women seem to view as a maternal figure. But for the most part, The Bridge continues to be a big ask. Most of the contestants are pleasant enough, some are even nice, but as a concept, it is not different enough to justify much interest. Oddly, and this is a sentence I thought I’d never write, I wanted to know more about the bridge-building. I could have done with more log-chopping, even some discussion about the most effective floating structures, rather than more “tension” and “drama” and sad music that swelled to accompany personal stories. Even the early hints at a weird, rustic Love Island vibe – sending two contestants off on an overnight jolly, chosen by Zac, because he thought they fancied each other – did not hit the mark.
Will they win the money? At this rate, they’re too busy bickering to even come close. If I wanted to listen to a load of arguing about logistics, I’d send the word “Christmas” to my family WhatsApp group and wait for the fallout.