It’s Jane Yee, everybody! (Image: TVNZ / Design: Archi Banal)
It’s Jane Yee, everybody! (Image: TVNZ / Design: Archi Banal)

Pop CultureJanuary 8, 2023

The Spinoff’s Jane Yee is joining Treasure Island: Fans v Faves!

It’s Jane Yee, everybody! (Image: TVNZ / Design: Archi Banal)
It’s Jane Yee, everybody! (Image: TVNZ / Design: Archi Banal)

The co-host of The Spinoff’s reality TV podcast The Real Pod has recapped every moment of Celebrity Treasure Island since 2019. Now, she’s going in. 

Jane Yee loves reality television with a passion that few of us can match. As co-host of reality TV and popular culture podcast The Real Pod with Alex Casey and Duncan Greive, she has watched, discussed and dissected every detail of Celebrity Treasure Island for the last few years. Now The Real Pod is about to get even realer, with today’s announcement that Yee – television presenter, award-winning writer and head of podcasts at The Spinoff – is about to make her reality TV debut on Treasure Island: Fans v Faves.

That’s right, if you’ve ever wondered how far a “normie” could go on Celebrity Treasure Island, you’re about to find out. In the new season that starts on January 30, Treasure Island returns to hot and humid Fiji, where eight non-famous superfans will compete against eight celebrities from previous seasons. It’s a shake-up of the show’s usual format that sees the underdog Fans make their reality TV dreams come true, while the experienced Faves – including Dame Susan Devoy, Lance Savali and two-time winner Josh Kronfeld – play a game they think they know against people they don’t. The winner – fan or fave – will earn $50,000 for their chosen charity.

Give The Real Pod a follow on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you listen to podcasts.

For most non-celebrity New Zealanders, going on a reality TV show is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. During a busy day of pre-show publicity in Fiji, Yee says she agreed to Fans v Faves to increase listeners to her “silly little pod”, but also because she knew she’d be cross at herself if she turned the offer down. Treasure Island is a delightfully weird school camp for adults where a curious mix of castaways spend three weeks chucking potatoes in holes and firing giant slingshots at each other. “I love the silliness that sits right alongside its impactfulness in terms of the ways charities get talked about, the relationships we see, and the heartache and emotion alongside ‘smack an egg on your face’,” Yee says of the show. “To me, that’s perfect television.”

The Real Pod just got realer (Photo: TVNZ)

Now Yee will make that perfect television, rather than simply talking about it. While her Faves rival Art Green immersed himself in ice-baths and Lana Searle climbed steep hills, Yee kept her Treasure Island preparation deliberately low-key. “I bought a lot of exercise gear, I went to the gym. I was hitting the pool twice.” A day? “No, twice. Just twice in total.” It’s all part of Yee’s grand plan. She knows her strengths, which are coming home after work, getting into her pyjamas and eating a snack in front of The Chase.

Turns out, these are highly transferable skills. “We don’t need more athletes on our team. We’ve got a league player, we’ve got a personal trainer. They need someone who knows how to just sit down,” Yee says, reclining in a plastic deck chair. “My strength is going to be sitting down and napping.”

There’s no doubt Treasure Island will give Yee fresh insights into the reality of reality TV. The former C4 presenter says getting back in front of the camera was like “putting on a comfy old sock”, but despite watching the show for a living, Yee doesn’t assume she knows how to play the perfect Treasure Island game. ”If you’ve ever listened to our podcast, you’ll know we get things wrong all the time, and I’m bound to fall into the traps that I’ve talked about before and said ‘how could they be so stupid’?” she jokes. “I think I’ll come out the other side with a lot more appreciation of how hard this is, and that not everyone who looks like an idiot is necessarily an idiot.”

Jane Yee: The hero us sitting-downers have been waiting for (Photo: TVNZ)

What Yee does know a lot about are Treasure Island’s meagre food rations, intense physical challenges and baffling mind games. Her strategy is to be flexible (“like my birth plan”) but she’s also aware this experience will push her far beyond her comfort zone. “A lot of the humour is a lovely defence mechanism for the fact that I’m shitting myself and I’m already looking around going, ‘this person can do that, this person can do that and I don’t really belong here’,” she says. “Classic imposter syndrome stuff, so I think that will be a big challenge.”

Whatever challenges Yee faces on the island, she’ll be raising money for her chosen charity Autism New Zealand. Like most of the charities chosen by the Treasure Island castaways, this is an extremely personal cause for Yee. Her eldest son has autism, and she praises the work ANZ does to educate people about the condition and the benefits of creating a world that works for autistic people. “It’s an invisible disability in most cases, and he looks just like any other regular kid,” she says of her son. “While I don’t want him treated differently, I want him to be understood.”

For all of her self-deprecating humour and pre-game nerves, make no mistake: Yee wants to win. Treasure Island: Fans v Faves is about more than just making her reality TV dreams come true. “I’d love a woman to win, I would love to win for me personally, I’d love to win for my kids. I’d love to win for the charity.” She pauses for a moment, perhaps to imagine the sound her spade will make when it hits the treasure chest. “I’d love to win because I don’t think I can,” she says. “It would shock no one more than myself.”

Read more: Who’s who on Treasure Island: Fans v Faves?

Give The Real Pod a follow on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Treasure Island: Fans v Faves premieres Monday 30 January at 7.30pm on TVNZ2 and streams on TVNZ+.

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