Press Ganged



Max Beesley (voiceover)


Bosuns: Roger McGowan and Paul Kersey


Produced by Granada Bristol (HTV West) for ITV1 in 2004, never broadcast (5 episodes)


It's Survivor... on a big old boat! Fourteen volunteers were snatched from their everyday lives and stuck on a ship in "19th century conditions". They formed two teams and sailed from Portsmouth to the Canary Islands on a search for treasure, but if they received too many black marks from the bosuns and their team lost the challenges, they were made to walk the plank and were off the show.

We doubt this is substantially worse than a lot of ITV's other shows but, for reasons known only to themselves, the former Britain's Favourite Button has apparently decided never to broadcast it. Maybe someone left the lens cap on for the whole month of filming, or something.

Image:Press ganged publicity photo.jpg
A publicity shot of the contestants


The show was subtitled "Hell on the High Seas"

Key moments

Er, none, seeing as how none of the contributors to UKGameshows has actually seen the show. However, we have seen the descriptions in the glossy ITV Sales catalogue, and this is what we can glean happened:

  • Episode 1 (90 minutes) had brief scenes from the auditions, then the final twenty are snatched from their homes and places of work, bundled into a van, and transferred to Cornwall. They take basic training on how to sail a square rigged tall ship without having it sink, as happened on a similar Irish show the previous year. The final fourteen are split into two teams, Red and Blue. They're put aboard The Kaskelot, and meet team Bosuns Roger McGowan (Red) and Paul Kersey (Blue), the people who will be in charge of the contestants. The sailors will be working to strict discipline, and suffer 19th century living conditions. The Kaskelot sails, seasickness and rebellion set in, emotions are high, tempers start to fray. Two shipmates request to leave the ship at the first port of call in Spain.
  • Episode 2 (60 minutes, as are all subsequent episodes) After losing two people in port, the Blues are boosted by one of the original trainees. The climate is harsh, the living conditions worse, and there are rough seas on the sailing to Portugal. The teams find it difficult to cope with the Nelsonian food provisions they must cook from. One person makes sweet flapjacks for his team, and there is bad feeling all around. The Bosuns give out Black Marks for bad work and bad behaviour, with those gaining the most running the risk of being removed from the ship. The Kaskelot arrives in Portugal where the teams undergo their first challenge. "Keel Haul" is a swimming challenge against the clock. The losing team has to get rid of the member with the most Black Marks, they become the first person to walk the plank.
  • Episode 3 The Kaskelot sails from Portugal to Gibraltar, stopping off at the site of the Battle of Trafalgar, where there's a minute's silence. It's not perfectly observed. Food is still causing trouble, and some of the sailors steal chocolate from the ship's stores, and cook for themselves out of allowed hours. The Bosuns award a record number of Black Marks, and the Blue team collapses into self-recrimination. An arm-wrestling contest lifts spirits, with the winners getting food treats. One contestant is deemed to have incited mutiny, and is told to walk the plank. A tug-of-war determines which team gets shore leave and a decent meal.
  • Episode 4 From Gibraltar to Madeira this week, and the Captain makes cleaning a priority. Weevils are found in the oats, causing rows in the Red team. Letters from home arrive for all the remaining members, and the prospect of a cash prize for the winning team concentrates minds wonderfully. The challenge is the Rowing Barrel Challenge, and the losing team member with the most Black Marks is plank-bound.
  • Episode 5 The final episode heads to the Canaries with two teams of five. Only four players from each side will compete in the final challenge, and each team must vote someone off. Cue a huge amount of backstabbing and bitchiness. The final test takes place on La Gomera, and involves tests to recover parts of a cannon strewn throughout the island - there's a set of questions on sailing knowledge, some scrambling up and down a rocky hillside, and physical work digging the body of a cannon up from where it's buried on the beach.

In order to retain some modicum of suspense, in case the series does eventually go out on an obscure channel, we won't reveal whether the Reds or Blues won.


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