Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

'Survivor' Aims to Keep the Familiar Unpredicable

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

'Survivor' Aims to Keep the Familiar Unpredicable

Article excerpt

Post-Gazette TV writer Rob Owen answers reader questions online every Friday in Tuned In Journal blog at post-gazette.com/tv. Here's a selection of recent queries.

Q.: In older seasons of "Survivor," the producers seemed wedded to the game structure - for example, delaying the final merge until only 10 contestants were left, even if the tribes were seriously mismatched. Sticking strictly to the format, even when the tribes were mismatched, made for some boring TV, as viewers had to wait for a series of unexciting challenges as one tribe repeatedly trounced the other until one was basically extinct.

Recently, however, it seems the producers are more willing to mix things up when the teams are mismatched - facilitating an early merge this season. Similarly, the producers seem more willing to shuffle the tribes when one alliance becomes too dominant in one of the tribes.

Are the current producers more willing to shuffle the game to create good TV than their predecessors were?

-- SHARON, MONROEVILLE

Rob: I put this question to a CBS publicist to pass along to producers, and executive producer/host Jeff Probst responded, "As a game, 'Survivor' has evolved quite a bit from season one. We now have hidden immunity idols, exile or redemption island, and we often start with three tribes then merge them to two tribes. Most of this is an attempt to keep the game unpredictable.

"We lay out our creative plan before the season starts and then hope for a bit of luck. For instance, when we start with three tribes, we know what episode we are merging them before we even begin. We have to, due to fairness as well as the amount of time it takes to build our challenges - often several weeks for each one. And even when we do merge them the draw for buffs is always random. So you don't know what the new tribe divisions will be until it happens.

"One of the big keys to 'Survivor's' success is 'doing the same thing, only different.' That's what we aim to do each season. …

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