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Addicted to reality TV where backstabbing goes hand-in-hand with physical and mental challenges? Of course you are – that’s the attraction of reality shows. And they don’t come bigger and badder than survival-of-the-fittest series Survivor.
Showmax subscribers can get a Survivor overload, with the most recent season of Survivor South Africa (Season 6 is on Showmax) as well as Seasons 32-34 of Survivor USA (Season 32 – Kaoh Rong; Season 33 – Millennials vs Gen X; Season 34 – Game Changers).
But did you know that Jeff Probst and his US version wasn’t the original? That only came around in 2000… almost a decade after Charlie Parsons created the show for UK production company Planet 24 in 1992.
“I knew it was the biggest thing that could be on TV here, but I couldn’t persuade anybody to do it,” said Charlie, adding that the first version was filmed in Sweden in 1997, called Expedition Robinson. “It took Sweden – Sweden, of all places – to produce the show before anyone would pay any attention to it.”
But that’s not the only thing you should know about the Survivor legacy…
- The Dream Team: Survivor and its production network CBS have an internship program that runs before every season (Survivor has just been renewed for Seasons 38 and 39). The “dream team” of college students really are called The Dream Team… but they’re not working behind the scenes. Instead, they’re sent to the island location where the season will be filmed to test the challenges.
- Bringing out the worst: Think that alliances from day 1 will last to day 39? Forget it! Survivor brings out the worst in people. Just ask Cirie Fields (Season 12 Survivor Panama). The nurse has been in four seasons (including Game Changers on Showmax) and been stabbed in the back three times because of her soft heart. So close, yet so far.
- “An absolute jackass”: Jonny Fairplay (he legally changed his name in 2013) is the biggest jerk to set foot on the Survivor set. He would be an honorary pirate: he lies, cheats and steals and makes absolutely no excuse for it. In Season 7, he lied about his granny dying to win sympathy. Host Jeff says that “…then you have Jonny Fairplay, who’s completely despicable. It was actually fun to work with Fairplay because he’s a producer’s dream. When he shows up drunk or flips somebody off, he’s bringing you gold every time. I wish we had a Jonny Fairplay every season. Personally, he’s an absolute jackass whose actions at the Vanuatu finale after-party pissed me off so much that he’s banned from any event that I’m at.” As brilliant as he is, he’ll never win Survivor as long as Jeff is host and executive producing.
- Jeff’s favourite: There have been over 570 castaways over the years, with only four returning in four seasons. It’s easy to single out the one we love most, because he’s also Jeff’s favourite – and he never won! Youth counsellor Rupert Boneham was in Survivor Pearl Islands, All Stars, Heroes vs Villains and Blood vs Water. Always smiling, the big grizzly bear wasn’t in it for fame and fortune – he just wanted to make a difference. That’s why the castaways voted him to win the bonus $1 million in the All Stars special episode, having finished fourth. He used the cash to build a facility for at-risk teens and other children who need help.
Standout moments? You bet the show has had more than its fair share!
1. Richard Hatch’s alliance juggling in the very first season was revolutionary, explains Jeff.
“The exhilarating part for us was watching this [alliance] unfold. The game was brand-new and we didn’t know what was going to happen. Now a guy like Hatch would be just another player, but in its day it was a giant.”
Don’t forget that Richard made headlines for all the wrong reasons in 2006 for tax evasion.
2. You cannot trust anyone on the show (except Jeff). Just ask Randy in Season 17 Survivor Gabon.
He really thought that he’d got away with murder after Bob handed him the Immunity Idol before heading to tribal council. Everyone at sit-down voted him off for being horrible, mean, nasty, temperamental, vicious, arrogant and a sexist.
Watch as he hands the idol to Jeff and sits down – everyone is laughing. Why? Bob gave him a fake!
3. If there’s a medical emergency, it’s no joke.
Survivor may have a couple of sneaky tricks up its sleeves, but when the castaways are playing in temperatures of 40+ degrees, there’s a very real chance of very real medical emergencies.
Like in Survivor Kaoh Rong, when Caleb has to be medically evacuated after collapsing. Watch carefully as he moves away from the tribes after a challenge – while Jeff and the medical crew are assisting two other castaways who’ve collapsed with heat stroke, Caleb is barely moving in the bushes. It was such an emergency that only two crew members were told to continue filming – everyone else dropped their equipment and helped.
4. And what would a Survivor story be without a little head-turning twist or two from a South African version?
In Season 1 Survivor South Africa Panama, three eliminated castaways were secretly sent to Deadman’s Island and competed in a challenge that gave them re-entry to the game. And when Sanele was medically evacuated from the game (see, it doesn’t just happen on the US version), rather than snuff out his torch as would normally happen, it was handed to newly voted off Danielle, who got a second shot by moving tribes.
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