It’s not surprising that the thing Fresno resident Dr. Alton “Buck” Parker missed most when dropped on the deserted island for the NBC competition show “The Island” was his cell phone. It’s what he missed second most that’s a surprise.
“For the first few days, I kept reaching for my cell phone to take pictures of what was going on,” Parker says. “But after that, I missed having a comfortable seat.”
Parker and the other 13 participants spent a month on the island with only a few supplies. Their struggles to find shelter, water and food have played out over six episodes that wrap up Monday, July 6.
The rocks, logs and ground that filled in for a seat were so painful for Parker that he either had to stand or lie down.
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Parker, a trauma surgeon who lives in Orlando, was born in Fresno and stayed here until age 12 when his family moved to Wyoming. Parker still has a lot of family living in the Fresno area, including his grandparents.
He grew up spending a lot of time outdoors, but usually not for more than five days. He auditioned for the show to test himself and see if he could last the full month. Parker says the time he spent outdoors before doing the reality show was “way different.”
He found the audition process to be as much of a competition as being on the island.
“There was a Skype interview, phone calls and contracts. It was more of a game to see if I could get on the show. As the day to go got closer, I began to think, ‘What the (expletive deleted) am I doing? This sounds really bad,’” Parker says.
Once he realized he had a good shot of being part of the group, he decided it was too good an opportunity to miss.
The timing was right. Parker had accepted a new job just before the filming was to start. He could not tell anyone what he was doing, so he left his previous employer early and told his new boss he couldn’t start until a later date.
Parker was an important part of the group. Because the participants were stranded on the island with no camera crew or support team, Parker’s job was to keep an eye on the medical condition of his fellow castaways. He had a radio to contact the production team should an emergency arise.
Parker treated the adventure as if he was going to be on the island for a longer time.
It was tough on him and the others. There was a lack of food and the high temperatures meant the men didn’t have the energy to spend the day looking for food or other necessities. Parker says a lot of viewers suggested they were lazy, but thinks it was simply a matter of not taking in enough calories to be more active.
The experience left Parker with a greater appreciation of everything he has.
“I came back with more confidence,” Parker says. “The show, overall, gives you a lot of life lessons. For us, it was to be nice to each other. If you blow up you have to remember everyone is having a difficult time.”
After the time on the island was over, all of the participants were taken to a hotel on a nearby island to make sure they didn’t have any major health problems. The first thing Parker ate was an apple. He says it tasted so sweet it was as if someone had put candy in the piece of fruit.
He was happy to have a comfortable place to sit.
To learn more about Parker’s island adventure, you can follow him on Twitter at @drbuckparker or on Facebook and Instagram.
- 10 p.m. Mondays on NBC (KSEE, Channel 24.1)