Challenge Anneka to be revived by Channel 5 after nearly 30 years

Anneka Rice is to dust off her jumpsuit and relaunch Challenge Anneka, a reality TV hit from nearly 30 years ago involving her flying into an area to complete a good cause against the clock.

Announcing a reboot of the programme on Channel 5, Rice urged her fans to “dig out your lycra from the 1990s … there will be more instructions soon.”

Channel 5 confirmed the relaunched show would focus on “everyday heroes and deserving communities at a time when they’ve never needed help more”.

Rice said: “The last few years have shown us all the power of community and how it’s good to be part of something bigger than ourselves.”

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, she added: “There will always be a room for challenge on television, because it’s about kindness, it’s about community, it’s about the power of the collective. As humans we are totally hardwired to be altruistic.”

The original show, which aired on the BBC from 1989 to 1995, with audiences of up to 12 million people, involved Rice arriving into an area of which she had no prior knowledge. It was based Treasure Hunt, an earlier show on Channel 4 when Rice would arrive by helicopter.

Her challenge was to accomplish a charitable project in limited time by persuading people and companies to help.

The relaunched show will feature Dave the sound man from the original series, but there will be a lorry instead of a helicopter.

Rice told Today: “It might not be on the screen, but it’s been in my heart for the last 30 years because I’m still so involved with all those projects. The issues might look a bit different today, but they’re not at its heart.”

She cited a project to help orphaned Romanian children that the original programme had helped to establish. She said that as adults the same people she had helped then were now involved in providing shelter for refugees from Ukraine.

She said: “That absolutely floored me because it was like one humanitarian crisis 30 years ago, rolling into another one.”

Rice suggested the relaunched programme would help challenge stereotypes about the role of older women on television, just as her original programmes had broken new ground in the role of female presenters.

She said Treasure Hunt, a forerunner to Challenge Anneka on Channel 4, “put a woman absolutely in control right in the centre of the action driving the narrative. It really changed the face of TV and in a lot of ways, and I want to sort of fly the flag for women today”.

She said: “Forty years ago, you have to remember where women were placed in television. They were usually either draped over cars as a prize on a quiz game or they were behind a news desk.”

She said there was too much focus on the age of female presenters compared with their male counterparts.

Rice said: “I feel just the same as they did 30 years ago, but possibly there’s more conversation about how we look, or about how we might be coping with it, whereas for men they just get on and do it, and their image and brand stays intact.”

She said Channel 5’s director of programming, Ben Frow, did not want to update the programme for a social media generation.

“He didn’t want to change anything. He wanted analogue. He wanted Dave the sound man, the truck and that absolutely powered this whole thing. I don’t think it needs [updating] because at the end of the day, it’s about community,” Rice said.

Filming is due to start later this year. Rice said if members of the public had ideas for projects, they could email: ideas@challengeanneka.co.uk

Guy Davies, commissioning editor at Channel 5, said: “There’s never been a better time to bring back such a loved series to our screens. The challenges promise to be timely, relevant and packed full of passionate and heart-warming people.”

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