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Reality TV helps public understand sight loss


It has recently been dubbed one of TV’s most ridiculous reality shows. However, a new series for Britain’s Channel 4, Scared of the Dark, will help audiences understand sight loss, a contestant says.

The blind comedian Chris McCausland is one of eight public faces who have stepped out of the spotlight and into a pitch-black bunker for eight days for the experiment. It will show how they cope with the pressures of light deprivation and humanity’s primal fear of the dark.

During the series, the celebrities have to eat, live and navigate their way around the bunker, while completing challenges to win treats and time in the light. They’ll be watched via 50 infrared cameras by host Danny Dyer and a clinical psychologist, who will explain their behaviour.

Dyer says, “It’s showing that level of vulnerability that famous people don’t usually do because they’ve always got their guard up or [are] media trained. You’re completely exposing them in a new way, that’s what makes it interesting.”

McCausland, who lost his sight gradually when he was young due to a hereditary condition called retinitis pigmentosa, believes Scared of the Dark raises the subject of blindness in a more “powerful, genuine and authentic” way because it is on an entertainment show.

Reality TV shows were usually quite vacuous, he says, but with this show, “for me it was really interesting that I would get to live with people who were being made to be blind . . . it really gave me the experience of being the most able out of everybody for a while.”

McCausland thinks Scared of the Dark — which aired mid-April — will “create an amazing level of awareness of what it’s like to come to terms with not being able to see anything”.

During the series, McCausland is shown helping the others learn to live without their sight. One of them, the actor Donna Preston, says, “You come out of it so grateful for your vision. No one understands that unless you’ve been in that bunker. I was so grateful to Chris; it’s so difficult navigating [things].”

Dyer says the show was “an insight into Chris’s world” and what “people with sight . . . take for granted every single day”. He adds it was interesting that McCausland was “the alpha in there” whereas another contestant, former professional boxer Chris Eubank, despite his physicality, was “useless”.

Although a Danish and US gameshow called Total Blackout has pitted people against each other in challenges in darkness before, Channel 4 claims the idea of immersing celebrities for 180 hours in pitch black is a world first.

A Royal National Institute of Blind People spokesperson says it was “great to see TV programs being more inclusive with their casting” and the institute hoped Scared of the Dark would “help challenge misconceptions the public might have about disabled people”.

ABOVE Scared of the Dark is hosted by Danny Dyer (centre), Chris McCausland is third from right

PHOTO Jonathan Ford/Channel 4/PA

You come out of it so grateful for your vision. No one understands that unless you’ve been in that bunker. I was so grateful to Chris; it’s so difficult navigating [things].

Donna Preston


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