I Want Off The Island
by The Cranky Media Guy
Okay, I finally gave in. I resisted it for many weeks, but
I lost my nerve and actually watched the final episode of Survivor.
I didn't watch the earlier episodes because they were on opposite
wrestling. Nowadays, everything is on opposite
wrestling. I saw about five minutes of the first Survivor show
and I figured I got the basic idea, so I didn't feel I needed to see
the rest of the endless "drama".
As for the final episode, for me the most interesting part was to
see how the producers managed to stuff five whole minutes of
"action" into a two hour time slot. A lot of the
padding was stock footage of Pacific island scenery. The
movies Krakatoa, East of Java and South Pacific
combined had fewer shots of palm trees swaying in the breeze.
The whole show moved slower than a square dance in a nursing home.
They call this "reality" programming. Wanna
explain to me what's "real" about wrenching a bunch of
extroverts out of their natural environments and sticking them on an
island-- not to mention that the "deserted" island has a
modern resort on the other side where the TV crew stays.
You want real? I've got real for you. Try this--Survivor,
The South Bronx. We take some whiter-than-white people,
dress them in a Klan muumuus, give them a fistful of fifties and
drop them off at 149th Street and 3rd Avenue in the Bronx. The
host is waiting for them outside Yankee Stadium at 161st Street and
River Avenue. If you makes it in one piece, you win.
Simple and elegant. I don't know about you, but I like my
reality real with real tension.
Watching Survivor last night, I did notice one thing. The
host, Jeff Probst, was obviously instructed to be sadistic to the
contestants, a kind of low-rent Torquemada. About four years
ago, I worked at the FX network, where Jeff was the host of a
show. I had a few conversations with him while we were both
there and I can tell you that he didn't seem like that at all.
Of course neither of us was on an island at the time. Wait,
actually we were--Manhattan island, but I don't think that
counts. I'm sure his Survivor persona was intended to
heighten the tension on the show. Just thought I'd mention
I guess what I'm really saying here is that I don't quite
understand why America was so entranced with the travails of a bunch
of people stuck in a totally contrived situation. Is it that
people imagine themselves in the same situation and try to figure
out what they would do? Is it that the contestants are
selected to represent a cross-section of America and the viewers
identify with one or more of them? Beats me.
The fact that I can't quite figure out the appeal of Survivor is
kind of irrelevant; Stevie Wonder could see that what the immediate
future of network television holds is innumerable rip-offs.
You're gonna have "reality" programming night after night,
hour after hour until the Weather Channel starts to look like
Shakespeare. Good luck and Godspeed to you all. You can
have your little Lord of the Flies fake reality. I'll
be watching professional wrestling. Now, that's real!