Yorkshire Television for Channel 5, 6 June 2000
Dawn Airey, programme controller of Channel Five once famously said her channel was about the 3 "F"s: films, football and... you can probably guess what the last one is. The last of these was in connection with her description to show soft porn and documentaries about the sex industry. Since then Dawn has changed it to the much less memorable 5 "M"s; one of them is movies and I think we can all guess snidely about another of them.
Channel 5 has been making, shall we say, slow but steady progress in the ratings towards their goal of 5% audience share and they haven't been shy of using whatever gimmicks they feel necessary to grab the ratings. Accordingly, they promptly devoted a whole week of programmes to help celebrate world naturism. This is a bona fide naturist game show: host and contestants all in the buff.
The host is Keith Chegwin, most recently famous for hosting the recent successful revival of seminal team races/stunts contest It's a Knockout after a long career hosting children's TV shows in an overenthusiastic fashion.
Naked Jungle is essentially a naturist version of the recent children's action game show Jungle Run. It uses the same spectacular set and the same fine production values, but a significantly different structure so to crown an individual winner rather than team victory or success.
Five naturist couples take part: the five men compete separately among each other to produce a male champion, the five ladies compete against each other separately to find a female winner. The two, er, best-of-gender winners then team up for the endgame in an attempt to win a cash prize of £5000.
Whereas Jungle Run is a contest to collect as many bananas as possible, the theme of Naked Jungle is collecting fig-leaves. The whole show has a fig-leaf motif. Contestants wear no clothes throughout except a coloured arm-band to tell them apart. Host Keith Chegwin wears no clothes likewise except a pith helmet (that's a hat). You can tell by the uneven tan and body tone that Keith is not normally a naturist, but he has no qualms about his outfit. It also confirms that host Cheggers has been through puberty, contrary to what his voice suggests.
The process of eliminating five men down to one is through a series of five games; each gent plays each game simultaneously, and the lowest scorer is eliminated after each of the last four games. The women's contest works similarly. The set is a lavish but deliberately stylised and artificial junglesque landscape.
The first game, The Pool of Death, saw contestants scramble around on polystyrene-style boats (in the shape of lilies) around a pool to pick up fig-leaves before a short time-limit. The second game, The Lost Camp (and I think we've got your lost camp right here) saw the men searching the landscape trying to find keys to unlock chests containing fig-leaves. The ladies, on their turn, searched the same landscape for rubber insects and bugs. The lowest-scoring contestant, based on total score over the two games, was eliminated.
Game three, The Chasm of Doom, saw the gentlemen swing a ravine and run around the set trying to collect fig-leaves. (Recognise the theme here? It was starting to get a little much.) The ladies did something different; they aimed to throw colour-coded spears down off a rope bridge into a target. The weakest performer in this game was eliminated.
Game four, The Cave of Lost Souls, was a straight race. Each of the three contestants in each half of the show ran around said cave, sliding planks, laying down ladders, swinging on ropes and securing sets of netting in order to make their way around the inside of the cave and avoid falling into chasms. One of the ladies fell in. The gents all made it round cleanly, so the slowest man was eliminated.
Game five, The Waterfall of Venus, saw a contest between the gentlemen to climb round the outside of the waterfall and, indeed, collect as many fig-leaves as possible, while their opponent blasted away at either them or the fig-leaves around in order to distract. The ladies had a much less demanding task - a race involving abseiling, swimming, clambering and rope-climbing. As ever, whoever returned fewer leaves to the host or lost the race was eliminated.
So we struggled through to find a winning gentleman and a winning lady who teamed up to play the two-part endgame. In the first part, the two then raced throughout the entire set - guess what? - picking up as many of the 180 fig leaves strewn about the set on the way. A nice touch was that the contestants eliminated in each round remained stranded at the relevant part of the set so we got to see them again.
The second part of the endgame saw the two contestants make their way through the four caverns of The Temple of the Body. Each cavern featured a puzzle which took the form of a cave-painting with three parts of the puzzle missing. Three blocks are provided with the missing parts of the picture. Correctly orienting all three blocks and placing them in the appropriate places completes the puzzle and opens the door to the next cavern. Increasing amounts of money were available for each puzzle solved - £500 for the first puzzle solved, £1,000 for the second, £1,500 for the third and £2000 for the fourth, making a potential prize of £5,000. The team had to make their way back out of the Temple with the money before the expiry of the time period in order to keep the prize.
All told, the show had no intellectual content, not a vast deal of variety and very little to play along with. Furthermore, Keith Chegwin hosted it in his typical cheery fashion. We don't know what your opinions are of naturism, but the contestants chosen were realistic rather than models. Failing to make this last comment would be like reporting on a football match without telling you the score: there was neither attempt to focus upon genitals nor attempt to avoid them.
All told, what was a children's show that wasn't worth bothering with at the time (though it's improved considerably since then) turned out to be excellent source material for a one-off which actually probably gained from the naturism stipulation. A thoughtfully designed but only moderately well produced one-off, but it probably wouldn't stand up as a full series.
Such was the bru-ha-ha conjured up by the programme that then-Culture Secretary Chris Smith made oblique reference to it during Culture, Media and Sport Questions in the House of Commons: "We have noted in recent days considerable concern about some of the content on television, particularly in relation to Channel 5. Government cannot and should not directly intervene, but I believe that the broadcasters have a commercial and a moral duty to take good account of the views of the public, and I urge them to do so." (Hansard, 12 June 2000). Even though this wasn't strictly relevant to the question he was asked, which was about the provision of regional news services on digital television.
Cheggers said afterwards that his mother was so shocked by his naked cavorting that he's promised never to do the show again.
In 2006, it came top in a (totally undemocratic) list of the Top 50 worst British TV programmes of all time, according to a Radio Times article.
The winners were Steve, 39 from Surrey, and Cyndi, who wasn't. They completed 3 of the 4 puzzles in The Temple of the Body, and won £3000 between them.
As far as we know, there are not plans to make a series hosted by Freddy from Rainbow songsmiths Rod, Jane and Freddy, regardless of what Wikipedia claims.
Naked Jungle (VHS)