Thursday, February 15, 2001
Forget the fly on the wall drama of The Hotel or The Airport, forget the social engineering of Castaway 2000, forget even the claustrophobic hype of Big Brother. You want reality TV? Survivor 2 is the real deal.
Two teams of gung-ho Americans are abandoned in the Australian outback with little more than the clothes they stand up in. As well as building shelters, trying to make fire and avoiding the scary bugs, the teams compete against each other for possession of the Immunity Idol. It sounds pants, but lose immunity and you have to vote off one of your own team.
Every three days, someone has to go, and at the halfway stage in the series, the two teams will combine, and the competitions become individual struggles for immunity. The denouement is perfect, since when the last two survivors remain, the final winner is determined by the previous half dozen folks voted off.
You might get muddy and hungry and more than a little uncomfortable in the outback, but the real challenge is to survive the machiavellian intrigue and chicanery of your fellow competitors. Too nice and you’ll not form the alliances necessary to get you into the last stages, but too nasty and no way are those people you shafted going to vote for you to get the million dollar prize in the end.
The original Survivor took the US by storm last summer, and TG4 are running the current series twice a week, while in the US, NBC has supersized Friends to 45 minutes an episode to try and compete with the show there.
No chance. The makings of another great series are there. Conflict is crucial of course, and the contestants have been carefully chosen to rub each other up the wrong way. But given the voting structure, everyone has to appear to be friendly (you never know when you’re going to need that support), while at the same time eliminating the competition.
The challenges are also designed to test individual abilities and the cohesion of the group. On Wednesday’s episode we saw Rodger, the mild-mannered Kentucky farmer, jump off a cliff into a lake, then wrestle with a huge crate as it and he went careering through the rapids. All the other survivors did that too, but Rodger can’t swim.
And then Kimmi the vegetarian New York bartender was forced to try to eat cow’s brain (CJD, how are you?) to win immunity for her team. She failed, but then got the chance to redeem herself in a sudden death eat off of foot-long worms. I didn’t see that on Big Brother.
So we’ve got intrigue, conflict and triumph over adversity, all carefully managed to heighten our viewing pleasure. Throw in sex – most of the competitors are beautiful bronzed people in their 20s sitting around in their swimming togs – and it’s a winning combination.