[theTVaddict.com note] Recently, Jenny (author of THIS WEEK ON TV) had the chance to take part in a press conference with SURVIVOR host Jeff Probst. The following is her preview of the new season: SURVIVOR COOK ISLANDS.]
If you have never watched Survivor, this season may be a reason to start. Host Jeff Probst is more excited about this season than he has been since Season 1. He said it has re-energized them, that the show & contestants have a freshness like Season 1 had. He believes they have reinvented Survivor, that there is no going backwards now. The reason for this excitement? This season, there are 20 contestants. They will be split into 4 groups of 5 each. Now, that in and of itself isn’t a big deal, right? The shock to everyone is that they will not be divided by age or sex, but by race: whites, blacks, Asians & Hispanics. Shocking, yes?
In a recent press conference, Jeff also said that most people flinch when they first hear the decision because it is such a sensitive topic, but that he thinks if they give it a chance, they will be surprised. “This show has completely changed my perspective about how I view other ethnicities,” Jeff remarked. “Not in terms of judging them but in terms of understanding that it’s ok to not know something, and it’s ok to ask the questions [when you don't].” He said he came to that realization after spending 39 days with the castaways and seeing the ethnic pride in all the groups.
In fact, it’s that ethnic pride that pushed CBS, Executive Producer Mark Burnett, Jeff Probst & the entire creative team into making the decision to split the tribes by race. The original idea was to have the most ethnically diverse group of people on TV. (Rather than just a few contestants in the larger group that were not Caucasian.) But during the casting process, they noticed a theme of ethnic pride shining through and as Jeff said on The Early Show, “Wow, if culture is still playing such a big part in these people’s lives, that’s our idea. Let’s divide them based on ethnicity.” And that’s how the new season’s division came to be.
Apparently this was the single biggest job for Survivor ever. Normally they just find the contestants from the thousands of applications. But this season, they went to places they had never been to before to find the ethnic diversity they wanted, such as calling the Miss Korea Town Pageant in Seattle, Washington. A result is the best group of contestants since Season 1 and of course, the most diverse.
One major thing about race, not just in Survivor, but in life, is stereotyping. On this season of the show, we will see people defying stereotypes but the show won’t be avoiding anything that happens (we’ll see if they handle it well or if they play up the backlash, any racism showing, etc for the ratings!). During the conference call, Jeff gave a hint about episode 1, saying, “The notion of stereotypes and perpetuating those stereotypes comes up in the 2nd episode within 1 tribe about whether they are helping to perpetuate their own stereotype by acting in a certain way, and it becomes an argument.” So the racial division apparently becomes an issue from the very beginning.
The castaways will start off like last season on a boat and will have 30 seconds to get out what they can carry, so each tribe will have to work together from the start. He gave no hint about when the groups will come together but did say that having 20 contestants allows them to keep the castaways on their toes. They can no longer assume that every 3 days, 1 person is going home. One day, they can get to a challenge or meeting and find out suddenly that 1 member of every tribe is going home. In my opinion, that should definitely make things more interesting!
I have a few tidbits about this season, so if you really don’t want to know more spoilers, don’t read! There were 3 love connections of varying degrees during the 39 days on the island, 1 of which is the strangest we’ll have ever seen on Survivor & possibly any reality show period. This season will also have the most heroes & the most underdogs in a long time, plus the most fish ever caught, an octopus is caught and there are a record number of blindsides during Tribal Council. It’s definitely an indication of the level of game play this season.
I plan on watching this show every week, and am going to actually make a chart of my predictions and opinions every week to see how it changes as the show goes on. Jeff Probst said that something so big happens mid-season that will turn everyone’s opinions around, so I’m looking forward to seeing what that big something is! Survivor premieres this Thursday, September 14th, at 8/7c!