Today’s TV highlight: Anneka Rice resurrects the beloved Challenge Anneka
Some 30 years later, Anneka Rice returns to her role as an altruistic helper and once again faces challenges greater than ever as the series returns on Channel 5.
Backed by an army of volunteers, Rice, 64, will take on some incredible responsibilities to help local communities in this reboot. Building a home for abandoned dogs in Kent, building a ‘remembrance village’ for people with dementia in Wirral, creating a massive food centre, kitchen and cafe for those in need in Stockton – these projects are overwhelming in the scale each team has only three days to complete it.
We catch up with Rice to find out more about her return to Challenge Anneka.
WHAT CAN FANS EXPECT FROM THE NEW SERIES? WILL IT REMIND YOU OF THE ’90S ORIGINAL?
I’ve had discussions with TV companies over the last few years who were interested in bringing Challenge back, but what was most appealing about Channel 5’s vision was that they wanted it exactly as it was.
Aside from the sat nav in the buggy and our wonderful production team being able to access people online instead of searching through the yellow pages, viewers will find it oddly similar.
People still use brushes and you still have to wait for the plaster to dry. Nobody has yet found a substitute for a human sorting a waste pipe.
At the end of the day, it’s a program about communities and volunteers. The program spotlights the disenfranchised and harnesses the power of television as a force for good.
That was always my vision when I developed the format.
CAN YOU TELL US ALL NEW TO THE SHOW HOW IT ALL BEGAN?
I began my career at the age of 17 with a BBC training course and worked for world service for two years. There I realized that I was a small cog in a huge global wheel and it made me want to go out into this world.
I ended up as a news anchor at the age of 21 when the regular fell ill and I offered to fill in. While I was there, refugees from Vietnam arrived in small boats after treacherous journeys.
I reported about it every night.
I ended up working in one of the huge refugee camps and that’s when I realized how great it is to be useful. It kept me from feeling lonely and overwhelmed.
As AA Milne wrote of Piglet, “Piglet was so excited at the idea of being useful that he forgot to fear any more.”
That’s what I had in mind when developing the format for Challenge.
Basically, humans are inherently inherent in being altruistic, and we love being part of a community. It lets us look outward and makes life a little less overwhelming.
WAS COMMUNITY SPIRIT AS WONDERFUL AS IT WAS IN THE ’90S?
Communities came together in the same way.
One of my sons came to watch a challenge as he was too young for the original 90’s series. He was amazed at the scale of it all.
It really does feel like you’re on another planet, with huge arc lights and catering trucks.
But no sooner had I greeted him than he set to work finding painters and decorators. It really is all hands on deck.
WHICH OF THE ORIGINAL DETAILS WILL COME BACK? THE BUGGY, TRUCK, DAVE THE SOUNDMAN?
Everything is as it should be!
This time the truck opens up to a huge production office. It’s like the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury.
We had dog photo shoots there, children painted a mural. It’s big enough for everyone and everything.
I decided to upcycle some of my old outfits since I have a closet full of lycra. So zippers, stripes, flashes continued.
The problem is that we were filming in winter so any hopes of looking glamorous were dashed. Most of the time I look like a Teletubby, layer after layer of thermals!
THE ORIGINAL SERIES WAS ALWAYS AN EMOTIONAL ROLLER COASTER. CAN WE EXPECT MORE FROM THESE HEARTEST MOMENTS, AND WAS ANYTHING YOU WAS SPECIALLY STRESSING?
Who would have thought that when we renovated a soup kitchen in the early ’90s, we’d be building a food hub in 2022? We wouldn’t even have known what that was.
Or would children in 2022 have no place to go after school if youth clubs and sports fields disappeared and we would help teenagers with mental health problems?
Or who would have thought that we would openly discuss a huge dementia problem that we have in the country today?
The dementia project touched me very much. I work for Alzheimer’s Research UK and have also befriended older ladies through my local Age UK over the years, so I know how loneliness and illness can impact the health of a person and their families.
Our project with Age UK in Wirral was to build a whole memorial village with everything from a pub, a record shop, a baker, a cinema, you name it. It was ridiculously overambitious and we didn’t finish on time, but of course, in Challenge tradition, we stuck with it.
HOW HAPPY WERE YOU WHEN IT WAS FINISHED?
I’m excited about this project. The Dutch have a brilliant attitude towards the elderly and dementia and this village emulates what they have been doing for years. This means people with low memory or capacity can walk around safely and go to stores where they can find caregivers to help them unlock memories.
There was one lady for whom Elvis was the only person she could remember and to see her sitting happily in the record store with an Elvis album in hand was heart opening.
We ended up having a singsong at the new pub, and while the dementia gang didn’t know their names or what they were doing there, they suddenly burst out in word and pitch perfect renditions of Danny Boy and My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean. It was amazing.
At that moment the rain stopped and a rainbow arched over the village. It was pretty overwhelming.
Challenge Anneka begins tonight at 8.50pm on Channel 5.
https://www.heraldscotland.com/news/23381700.tonights-tv-highlight-anneka-rice-reignites-beloved-challenge-anneka/?ref=rss Today’s TV highlight: Anneka Rice resurrects the beloved Challenge Anneka