Cast Offs – Episode 1

Posted on November 29, 2009

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I recently stumbled across Channel 4’s newest drama series while following (stalking) Matthew Graham on Twitter. Cast Offs tells the story of 6 people, with varying disabilities and their challenge to survive on a deserted island. Filmed in a documentary style with some tones of reality TV, each episode focuses on one of the six characters, in much the same way Lost does. The first episode, which I caught up with on 4OD, tells Dan’s story.

Dan is a young man left paralysed by a car accident. His parents deal with his disability very differently. His mother is quiet and refined, a hint of bitter sadness about her. She is clearly dealing quietly and within her own mind. His father on the other hand is proactive. He pushes Dan to join the local paraplegic basketball team and encourages him. While Dan seems to be adapting to his new lifestyle, it is clear that his father is struggling. He speaks on Dan’s behalf and messes around in his wheelchair, trying to be “one of the lads” perhaps, an aspect of Dan’s life which has yet to be addressed.

 

Dan seems to thrive on meeting the new people on the island and it is there that we see his true nature coming out. He is a very shy but very sweet individual, something we see when he is with Carrie, a dwarf. It is she that Dan seems to connect with the most. And we see a clear difference between the Dan we see on the island and the Dan we saw at home, or in the pub with his basketball team.

 

Cast Offs is the kind of programme an audience will need to stick with. The first episode posed more questions than answers but in a good way. And in a manageable way, unlike Lost, though the comparisons between the two series go as far as the island premise and that’s it.

 

Cast Offs seems at times like a social experiment. When the characters state “We’re all going to die out here”, or “It’ll be like Lord of the Flies. On Crack”, an audience can’t help but think that this could be the next level of reality TV. Towards the end of the first episode Dan sings a line, “We’re the Cast Offs”. And though we don’t want to think it, we know what he means.

 

These people are not only cast off, onto an island where their resilience will be tested. The writers and producers are also trying to tell us that they are the cast offs from society, the age old question of prejudice and exclusion. Dan is quiet and obedient with his family and even with his team-mates. On the island, he changes and we see how he really is.

 

It is clear that the cast offs are building their own society on the island as a foil to the society from which they came.

 

An interesting first episode with enough going on to warrant another look at the next one. This series as the potential to be very, very good.

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