I am a reality TV junkie. I have a problem, and I am not ashamed to admit it. My addiction runs deep and while I prefer the satisfying fix of the major network offerings, I can satisfy my incessant need for reality with shlock such as Rock of Love, The Surreal Life or even Hulk Hogan’s Celebrity Championship Wrestling — I know, I got it bad.
My problem began – as most bad habits do – during my university days. In my case, it wasn’t peer pressure or innocent experimentation that led me down this path. No, my addiction to reality TV can be directly attributed to a third-year Communications and Pop Culture professor who played our class bootlegged copies of MTV’s Real World during lectures in 1992/1993. We ‘studied’ the show for an entire semester and I had never seen anything like it; the raw emotions, conflicts, triumphs, character development and narrative style had never before been seen on mainstream television in North America. And while the genre spawned a number of 90’s films – 1994’s Reality Bites and 1999’s EDTV – it wasn’t until 2000 that the cultural impact of the Real World would be fully realized.
In the spring of 2000 CBS debuted a highly hyped new show called Survivor. The premiss: think Gilligan’s Island meets Lord of the Flies with a little of Richard Bachman’s (a.k.a. Stephen King) The Running Man. For 39 days 16 “regular” Americans were dropped on the island of Pulau Tiga in the middle of the South China Sea and filmed 24/7 as they dealt with the elements, a series of physical and mental challenges, and most importantly, each other. After all, Survivor is a game where the combatants spend most of their time scheming to get rid of one-another only to then beg those they’ve eliminated to hand them the million dollar grand prize.
This is what makes Survivor the granddaddy of all reality shows and what has kept millions of viewers, including myself, coming back for 17 seasons. And it is why I am so looking forward to Survivor: Tocantins – The Brazilian Highlands, premiering on CBS Thursday, February 12.
What makes Survivor work, even after 17 cycles, is the brilliant casting. Don’t get me wrong, there have been a couple of dud seasons (#4 Marquesas and #5 Thailand come to mind), but overall the brains behind Survivor do an incredible job at putting the right mix of people together to illicit intense emotional relationships (good and bad) and they have only gotten better at it as highlighted by the romances, backstabbing and secret alliances in the last three seasons.
Survivor: Tocantins appears to be shaping up as another classic. The video at cbs.com/survivor tells us that this will be a season based on overcoming first impressions. My first impression is that this is Survivor’s youngest and best looking cast. Even the 46-year-old middle school principal and mother of five has a certain yummy mummy factor that should help her connect with the young male cast members. I definitely anticipate a lot of flirting and some strategic hook-ups in season 18 as the predominately single and attractive cast members get to know each other. After all, sex sells and my guess is the producers are looking for the next Rob and Amber (Survivor All Stars Couple) to take to future All Star seasons of the game.
Prediction: While it is next to impossible to predict the outcome of Survivor, I always like to pick a favourite before the season stars. With 7 of the last 10 winners being male, my guess is it’s time for a female to be crowned the ultimate survivor. My pick is 26-year-old hairstylist Erinn Lobdell of Waukesha, Wisconsin. As a hairstylist, she’s accustomed to working in a female dominated industry and listening to people talk about themselves and then leveraging the information down the road. She’s also comfortable telling people how great they are/look even when they don’t so I’m sure she’s told a fib or two. Her bio says she works out everyday and is in great shape so challenges shouldn’t be an issue.
…the scribe has spoken.