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GiveLife.ca

    
Surviving Survivor


After 12 weeks of episodes, it's down to the final four.  Who will walk off the beach with the million?  
And why on earth do we care?

Survivors: people we grow to hate

Show's appeal lies in our love for gossip
and learning about petty jealousies

Thursday, August 17, 2000
JOHN ALLEMANG
Television Critic; Source: CBS Television

Why are 30 million North Americans watching Survivor every week?

Why, as the series builds up to its final three-hour wrapup next Wednesday, will the rest of the continent find itself totally consumed by Survivor mania?

In an increasingly fragmented society with few common references, the mean-spirited castaway competition has emerged as a unifying force. The strategies of the Tagi alliance are the talk of the water-cooler crowd, bringing people together in a way that just didn't seem possible before obnoxious Richard and nice Gretchen and dumb Sean were unleashed on the unsuspecting world back in May.

Who would have guessed that a desert-island game show with a cast of nobodies would become the most popular TV series of the year?

"It's an adventure, and we all want one," offered Survivor producer Mark Burnett in an attempt to explain the show's weekly ratings triumph. "Because I can assure you, you can't be finding the meaning of your life inside your laptop. Get outdoors and have an adventure."

Of course, most of his many viewers only experience adventure vicariously, through the 16 people who've been competing in a war of attrition for the show's $1-million (U.S.) grand prize. And in any case, Survivor is much less the reality-adventure series it was billed as and much more a continuing soap opera about petty jealousies and made-for-TV backstabbing.

When does viewership peak on the show? During the last five minutes, when the remaining Survivors gather together in a corny "tribal council" to vote one of their number off the island. The rat-eating and snake-killing have been kept to a minimum. What viewers enjoy much more, in the time-honoured tradition of Dallas and Dynasty, is the bad behaviour of openly arrogant people who think they can get away with anything.

Does Survivor succeed because it's a microcosm of modern America, a cutthroat island workplace where only the devious can survive? That's the favourite theory of the show's participants, people who were recruited precisely because they believe in the virtues of self-interested betrayal.

"I think that this show teaches a positive role rather than a bad one," said B. B. Andersen, the second-episode Survivor castoff who once worked for the U.S. Defence Intelligence Agency. "It teaches that you have to try and be a little street-smart to survive."

But if that's the lesson, it's lost on the show's viewers, who watch more in fascinated horror than in patriotic admiration. The next-day conversations have nothing to do with useful tips gleaned from the show on how to move up the corporate ladder. They're much more likely to revolve around how awful Richard looks with his shirt off or how creepy Sue-the-truck-driver's become or how awful Kelly is. In other words, not so different from the in-crowd's cafeteria-table gossip back in high school.

Thirty-million viewers may be the world's largest in crowd, but Survivor offers a feeling of intimacy that's hard to match in any other cultural experience. In the stripped-down island environment, with cameras recording their every move, Richard and Sue and the rest have become more familiar to TV audiences than people they've lived beside or worked with for years.

THE CAST OF SURVIROR

Sonja Christopher
Age: 63
Marital status:
Single
Occupation:
Musician
Tribe:
Tagi
Voted out:
Episode 1 by 4 votes
-**
B.B. Andersen
Age: 64
Marital status:
Married
Occupation:
Retired
Tribe:
Pagong
Voted out:
Episode 2 by 6 votes
-**
Stacey Stillman
Age: 27
Marital status:
Single
Occupation:
Attorney
Tribe:
Tagi
Voted out:
Episode 3 by 5 votes
-**
Ramona Gray
Age: 29
Marital status:
Single
Occupation:
Chemist
Tribe:
Pagong
Voted out:
Episode 4 by 4 votes
-**
Dirk Been
Age: 23
Marital status:
Single
Occupation:
Teacher
Tribe:
Tagi
Voted out:
Episode 5 by 4 votes
-**
Joel Klug
Age: 28
Marital status:
Single
Occupation:
Salesman
Tribe:
Pagong
Voted out:
Episode 6 by 4 votes
-**
Gretchen Cordy
Age: 38
Marital status:
Married
Occupation:
Homemaker
Tribe:
Rattana
Voted out:
Episode 7 by 4 votes
-**
Greg Buis
Age: 24
Marital status:
Single
Occupation:
Journeyman
Tribe:
Rattana
Voted out:
Episode 8 by 6 votes
-**
Jenna Lewis
Age: 22
Marital status:
Single
Occupation:
College student
Tribe:
Rattana
Voted out:
Episode 9 by 4 votes
-**
Gervase Petersen
Age: 30
Marital status:
Single
Occupation:
Basketball coach
Tribe:
Rattana
Voted out:
Episode 10 by 5 votes
-**
Colleen Haskell
Age: 23
Marital status:
Single
Occupation:
Student
Tribe:
Rattana
Voted out:
Episode 11 by 4 votes
-**
Sean Kenniff
Age: 30
Marital status:
Single
Occupation:
Neurologist
Tribe:
Rattana
Voted out:
Episode 12 by 3 votes
-**
Richard Hatch
Age: 39
Marital status:
Single
Occupation:
Corporate Trainer
Tribe:
Rattana
Status:
Survivor
-**
Kelly Wiglesworth
Age: 23
Marital status:
Single
Occupation:
River guide
Tribe:
Rattana
Status:
Survivor
-**
Susan Hawk
Age: 38
Marital status:
Married
Occupation:
Truck driver
Tribe:
Rattana
Status:
Survivor
-**
Rudy Boesch
Age: 72
Marital status:
Married
Occupation:
Retired Navy Seal
Tribe:
Rattana
Status:
Survivor


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