Back in 2002 or thereabouts, Top Gear did a short feature on the Isle of Wight. It was only a five minute wonder featuring Clarkson driving around and saying risque things, but I only recently saw it myself and it did inspire a new game which I'm developing called "Isle of Wight on TV Bingo".
You see, it turns out that almost every time the Isle of Wight appears in the background of a Mary Berry cookery programme, a tedious One Show feature or a grey horror film, the same few elements are featured.
We always start with a shot of the ferry, or occasionally several ferries in a confusing order (as in Fragile). In the Top Gear feature, it was a Red Funnel ferry, which was notable for being otherwise completely empty. Perhaps the producers feared that Clarkson would not be keen to queue for the hot food onboard (sorry, that's a cheap dig, for which I feel a little dirty).
Following this, the Aston Martin took a drive around East Cowes, and then Cowes before engaging in a strange discussion about whether a local resident would rather have a house in Gurnard or an Aston Martin. I am a very boring person who was just thinking about a) the practicalities of living in a cramped sports car and b) the depreciation of the car in contrast to the growth of the Gurnard housing market since 2002. I think I may have missed the point.
Another Isle of Wight TV appearance favourite is the sweeping shot of the Military Road. In Fragile they somehow made the whole thing look pretty dreary whilst in Top Gear, Jeremy Clarkson seemed confused as to which side of the road he should be driving on.
Finally there was an entertaining snippet which broke from the norm and involved Clarkson drove along the seawall at Freshwater Bay, which I would advise against.
Other favourites which weren't featured were the classic shot of The Needles and the Alum Bay chairlift or a fudge box shot of Godshill, which usually pads out a few seconds.
The problem with this TV-by-numbers is that they paint the Isle of Wight to be a bit limited in its appeal. You rarely see TV producers making any kind of effort to dig out other natural wonders or curiosities.
The problem isn't unique to the Isle of Wight. Try to find a national TV piece about Brighton which doesn't start with a shot of the Pier, or a feature based in Blackpool which doesn't include the presenter scoffing an ice cream with the Tower in the background (usually whilst tenuously comparing the cost of donkey rides to the challenges facing the Labour party).
Come on TV producers. How about featuring The Pepperpot near St Catherine's Lighthouse? Or Bembridge Windmill? Or Kitesurfing at Brook Chine? Or canoeing into smugglers caves at Freshwater? Or the golden sands of Priory Bay or Whitecliff Bay? Or the rarely seen coastline of Whale Chine or Hamstead? Or Bestival?
Until then, I will continue to develop the Isle of Wight TV Bingo game before launching it with a feature for the One Show starring Gyles Brandreth onboard the Alum Bay chairlift.
It somehow passed me by that the Isle of Wight was the location for Fragile - a horror film in 2005 starring Calista Flockhart. I was mostly on the mainland at the time, but I was back home regularly and was something of a film fan at the time (though not a film buff by any means), but I guess it didn’t quite make it to a widescale theatrical release.
Anyway, 11 years later I finally got around to watching it.
The general idea of the film is that nurse Calista Flockhart plods around a dilapidated Isle of Wight hospital, looking more miserable than the patients whilst unpleasant things start to happen to the children. Slow piano music and the decision to filter out most of the colour in the film turns it into something of a misery-fest which I found myself fast forwarding through after 20 minutes.
Things did finally pick up and it became moderately intriguing, but don’t expect great things from a film which was clearly scrabbling around for complimentary reviews to fill up the front cover. The best available was ‘Gorezone Magazine’ (no, me neither) declaring it the ‘most relentlessly scary movie of the year’.
But of course, I wasn’t all that interested in the actual plot, and was much more curious about the background scenes.
The first glimpse of my beloved Isle of Wight was the ferry crossing – classic intro stuff for any film or TV programme featuring the Isle of Wight. Usually we see The Hairy Bikers or Mary Berry or whoever arriving in glorious sunshine, but in this case we see a bizarre medley of ferry companies and crossings.
In between shots of Calista looking worried at the odd bed sheet flapping, lift collapsing or blood spurting we get to see a couple of shots of Union Street in Ryde, another couple of shots of the Compton Farm area and a residential street which I must admit I didn’t recognise. If it was on the Island I’d guess it was Ryde.
According to Wikipedia, the outside shots of the hospital are Berkshire. No signs of St Mary’s Hospital or the famous Koan I’m afraid.
There wasn’t a whiff of sunshine, which I suppose might ruin the mood of a dreary ghost story, but it might have cheered me up at least.
I don't want to ruin the grand finale for anyone else who has been planning on watching Fragile, but hasn't quite managed it in the last 11 years...but the whole thing is about as much fun as a punch in the face.
Perhaps becoming a parent has made me a little less tolerant of horror films about children in anguish but nowadays I'd much rather watch a slightly rose tinted view of the Isle of Wight where the sun always shines and everything happens in slow motion. Something like this by SBG films:
Cheer up world.
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