Celebrity Treasure Island brought back Buck, but is it worth watching?

Celebrity Treasure Island has returned to screens after a 2019 revival that saw thrills, Sam Wallace’s villainous spills and Breakfast’s Matty McLean weeping about proving himself to Barbara Kendall. Does the 2021 version match up to expectations?

Let’s address the elephant in the room: Expect fewer celebrities and less of a “treasure island” from Celebrity Treasure Island 2021.

Thanks to the pandemic, the island is off the coast of Northland, and the actual celebrities are few and far between.

You may think I’m exaggerating about there being hardly any real celebrities on 2021’s new season, but I challenge to recognise more than five of the show’s 21 contestants. And 21 seems like too many to keep up with.

Contestant and comedian Chris Parker (whose quips make for early delights in the first episode) took to Instagram over the weekend to point out criticising Celebrity Treasure Island for not having enough big stars is a lazy and overused insult. And to an extent I see where he is coming from, the game is about willing local talent signing up to support their chosen charities. But in that case, shouldn’t the show go through a re-brand?

That’s where the show falls flat from the get-go: You have to spend the entire first episode clinging on to every time a contestant’s name comes up on the screen. For someone whose job it is to know who these “celebrities” are, it wasn’t so bad. But for TVNZ’s average viewer hoping the show will live up to the star power of last season, it could prove to be a disappointment. However, there are still some parts of the show to like.

The viewers’ introduction to the show is a lengthy three-minute montage of the drama to come, but I found myself wishing they used this time to give short and snappy introductions about who each of the contestants are. Just for our sake at home. The first episode of a reality competition show is usually rocky. There aren’t any clear favourites or villains yet and no one really knows what’s going to happen next.

Celebrity Treasure Island have, however, brought back Buck. Wayne ‘Buck’ Shelford answered the battle cry and it seemed like everyone on the island was starstruck in his presence – even the hosts themselves.

Shelford and Shortland Street star Angela Bloomfield are both in team Honu, the “legends” team as hosts Matt Chisholm and Bree Tomasel put it. The “boss” team contains Boss Babe herself Edna Swart and professional reality TV star Art Green.

Then there’s the orange team Katipō, or the “jokers” as they’re labelled. But throughout the challenges, the “jokers” prove themselves to be more than their label. Kimberley Crossman is in this team too and flew suspiciously under the radar despite her Hollywood fame. Maybe that’s her winning strategy?

At worst, Celebrity Treasure Island is like watching a televised school camp team-building exercise. But at its best, it can reveal sides to its contestants and the public have never seen before – whether that’s a comedian who wins challenges or a Shortland Street actor complaining about everyone being too competitive on a competition reality show (Brynley Stent and Angela Bloomfield respectively).

I have faith this season of Celebrity Treasure Island will find steady ground. But I don’t think it will until it gives us the gritty and entertaining moments audiences expect from the franchise. For now, tune in for the laughs, and for Buck, just don’t go in with high expectations for the first few episodes.
• Celebrity Treasure Island premieres Monday, September 6, and airs weekly, Mon-Wed, 7:30PM on TVNZ 2.

For all the inside gossip and behind the scenes stories, listen to Inside Celebrity Treasure Island hosted by S2 contestant Kim Crossman!

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