I think you all know me well enough at this point to have picked up on my Survivor obsession. Obviously when we decided that the theme for this week was going to be television, I was going to take the opportunity to write about my favorite show. I realize that the audience for this post is slightly limited, but whatever, it’s my birthday week. I’ll do what I want.
I am, however, going to try to keep this as general as possible because I don’t want to exclude people who don’t watch the show. I want to encourage everyone to start.
My history with Survivor dates back to the very first season in the summer of 2000. I was 10, I had just finished 5th grade, and my dad decided to start watching the show where “those people are eating rats.” We were immediately hooked. This show became mine and my dad’s thing. Every Thursday night at 8, he and I would tune in to CBS to watch the strategy, the drama, the challenges, and the survival. This tradition held up until I went to college in 2007. During my second semester I had a class on Thursday nights, so I couldn’t keep up with the show. None of my other friends watched, so I had little initiative to even watch it online. I think the only other time in my life where my dad was more disappointed in me was when I told him I didn’t want to play on my college soccer team anymore. I watched it periodically throughout college, but I didn’t really get into it again until after I graduated. I moved back home, the show was moved to Wednesdays, and I decided to dive back into it.
My life since then has been overtaken. My best friend started watching. My boyfriend started watching. My dad never stopped watching. I went back and caught up on the seasons I missed. I rewatched old seasons. I was introduced to the online Survivor community because it’s the kind of show that requires in depth discussion. You don’t just watch the show and then forget about it until the next episode. True Survivor fans never want to stop talking, theorizing, fighting, strategizing, and discussing every single aspect of the show.
People who don’t watch the show are sometimes surprised that it’s even still on TV. They have no idea of the diehard and obsessive fan base that exists. Whether your online community of choice is Rob Has a Website/Podcast, Survivor Sucks, The Tribe, Survivor Oz or any of the other hundreds of websites and podcasts and message boards out there, there are other people who understand your obsession. Personally, I follow Rob Has a Website religiously (Rob Cesternino has always been my absolute favorite player of all time) and Survivor Historians has become one of my favorite podcasts.
So what is it about this show that has created this rabid obsession among so many? For those that haven’t been there since the beginning, it’s a little hard to understand. Survivor is not just a reality show. It’s not just a game show. It’s so much more. It’s an ethnographic study on human relationships. For all my friends out there with even a passive interest in the social sciences, this is the show for you. For anyone who loves the Hunger Games, well, Survivor might as well be the Games. Sure, there’s significantly less death, but there’s just as much, if not more, conniving, backstabbing, plotting, and drama.
Every season brings together anywhere from 16 to 20 Americans from all walks of life, putting them on an island together with the barest of resources. They are forced to live together and create a functional society while simultaneously competing against one another and voting someone out every 3 days. It doesn’t favor one type of person; the people who have won or been successful in this game include almost every race, gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, and personality type. It is a microcosm of our real life. There is no way to predict how any season will go. Each season is as unique as the people they cast.
This is starting to sound like a love letter to Jeff Probst and Mark Burnett. And it kind of is. Survivor has meant more to me than any show I’ve ever watched. I’m not nearly eloquent enough to express exactly why this show is so great. All I can do is encourage you all to watch it. Survivor is entering its 27th season this fall. The concept of this season, subtitled Blood vs. Water, might be hard for newbies to really get into. It brings back former Survivors along with their loved ones, pitting brother against brother, husband against wife, mother against daughter. So this might not be the best season to start with if you don’t know who the returning players are. But please go back and watch some of the older seasons. Whether it’s the first season in Borneo, or other early favorites like Survivor: The Amazon or Survivor: Pearl Islands, or my most recent favorite, Survivor: The Philippines. Just watch it. There’s drama, there’s backstabbing, there’s alliances, there’s strategy, there’s even a couple love stories.
You don’t have to develop an obsession quite like mine, but you probably will. Once you start, it’s hard not to get enveloped in the Survivor world. I just can’t express it enough; this show is just plain good. It’s not trashy reality. It’s for smart people with a sense of adventure. Just watch it, and you’ll understand why I want to talk about it at every available opportunity.