Saturday, May 05, 2007

It's all about survival

• Survivor goes to China next season.

It took 14 seasons to get there, but I finally quit watching Survivor after two episodes of the current installment (Fiji). It's not that I tired of the microcosm of deceit and backstabbing — in fact, I'll happily belly up to the table again next season for Survivor 15 after the welcome summer break — but several factors had reached a breaking point, at least temporarily.

Thus, some proposed steps to recovery for the aging reality franchise:

Enough with the hidden immunity idol.
It's no fun at all to watch an arrogant alpha male find it in the second episode and then wield its power to help him control the rest of the game. It seemed like a good idea, but it quickly became a downer.

Stop airing seasons back to back.
One of Survivor's biggest problems at this late stage is a lack of breathing room. In the beginning, seasons sensibly appeared months apart; now one season essentially covers the first half of a standard TV season, and the subsequent season covers the second half. This puts them far too close together, and, combined with the endless string of ratings-desperate twists to come along in the last few years, it simply wore me out. You know going in that it takes four or five episodes to get to the really entertaining stuff, and the investment has just become too much.

Get off the friggin' beach.
The skin of flesh-baring hotties glistening in tropical sunlight may be part of Survivor's enduring appeal, but how many more faceless sandy beaches can a viewer endure? As I noted at the beginning of last season, the locale has become merely an afterthought, barely meriting a mention in the opening episode, whereas it used to be all about the drama of the location and its dangerous, man-eating butterflies. Location has too often taken a back seat to overly contrived twists in recent seasons. Now, about six seasons too late and in the face of the show's declining ratings (although still regularly landing in the top 10), Mark Burnett is doing something smart: taking the show to China for season 15. Come September, at least there will be something new to look at besides the flesh.

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