I don’t watch many reality shows, but there are a few to whom I’ve been loyal for quite some time: “Survivor”, “The Amazing Race” (which has mostly turned into a snoozefest), “Project Runway” and more recently “Top Chef”. Regardless of how interested you are in cooking or fashion and besides the intellectual and physical aspects of a competition, there are certainly people who make one season more watchable than another. For me, I don’t think anything will ever top the first season of “Survivor”, nor will I find a winner more clever (up to the point of his victory) than Richard Hatch. That mofo hit the island and directed his “Survivor” win and he did it before anyone else made a blueprint or laid out the unwritten laws that so many future participants seem to forget. (Seriously people, if you’re going on a reality show that has this many seasons, watch them and don’t make the same dumb mistakes.)
Since then, “Survivor” has persisted twenty seasons, some better than others because of location or personalities. (In an odd aside, if there’s no beach around, the show becomes exceedingly boring.) Over the years, a few popular/enduring characters have emerged (Rupert, Boston Rob, Ozzy, Johnny Fairplay, Elizabeth, Colby, Russell) and “Survivor” has found ways to bring some of them back, including “All-Star” seasons. It is understandable that CBS sees these people as profitable commodities, but when people are appearing a third and fourth time, one has to wonder where the show is going.
As is customary, at the finale of “Survivor: Nicaragua” host Jeff Probst announced some of the details of the 22nd season, “Survivor: Redemption Island”. It already sounded stupid; the Redemption Island being a new twist whereby voted off players get a second chance. I dislike second chances in a competition - if you lose, you lose. Regardless, this upcoming season allows a voted off tribe member to be shipped to said Redemption Island where the person will carry on surviving (albeit alone) until the next person is evicted from the game (well, not really). That next person will arrive at Redemption Island where he/she will square off in competition with the first evictee; the winner will remain and the loser will finally, truly be out of competition. Then, at certain times during the 39 days, whomever is on Redemption Island will have a chance to rejoin the main game players and carry on as if never voted out. Call me a cynic but I’m thinking that person should just be voted out again at the first opportunity, if you’re out, you should stay out.
Now you’d think all that nonsense would be enough for Mark Burnett or CBS or whomever thinks up these stupid twists, but you’d be wrong. Not content jumping just one shark, “Survivor: Redemption Island” is going to fill the waters and take a giant flying leap, hoping not to painfully flop on its big, fat belly. Yesterday it was announced that “Heroes vs. Villains” rivals (Boston) Rob Mariano and Russell Hantz would be returning for their fourth and third seasons, respectively. As much as I’ve enjoyed these polarizing characters, new seasons of “Survivor” are not where they belong. Hell, if they had to be brought into the mix, just send them off to Redemption Island where they can entertain the evictees with their own version of The Ultimate Fighter. These are two of the most egotistical, smack-talkingest, nimrods you’ve ever seen. Do they make for compelling television? Sure. But at this point, bringing them on just turns “Survivor” into a mockery of itself.
To the other 16 castmembers, I have one piece of advice (though if I had to guess, I’d say producers will ensure this doesn’t happen): vote those dipsticks off first. As I mentioned, unless you were picked for sheer stupidity, you must have seen previous seasons and you must know what these two are about. You know that Russell is a crafty, little dude who can find an immunity idol hidden up another player’s ass. You know that Rob can manipulate a fellow team member to vote out her own mother. If you have any intention whatsoever of winning the game, send Russell and Rob to Redemption Island so they can have it out once and for all and make that sweet man love that thus far has eluded them. Then the rest of you can get on with the game, the person who rode someone’s coattails can slip under the radar to win, and Probst can announce “Survivor: Don’t Worry About Being Voted Off, It Doesn’t Count, You Can Come Back in Five Minutes and We Hid a Bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken in Your Backpack”.