Survivor Roundtable Part III
By BOP Staff
April 24, 2013
David Mumpower: Exactly what makes a good season of Survivor?
Jim Van Nest: Unfortunately, this is a pretty easy thing to define, but an incredibly difficult thing to obtain.
For me, a good season of Survivor includes good strategic game play. Solid challenge performances, alliances, broken alliances, blind sides and more of a focus on the strategy and game than on the colorful character who doesn't know how to play the game. Another thing that is important for a good season is equality in the tribes at the beginning. Watching one tribe dominate and another tribe implode does not make for good television. It makes for a boring game with little to no strategy.
Now, if we want specifics on what makes me happy in a season, I want a Survivor Auction. Have one every season. Gross food challenge - have one every season. You also need to have the challenge where the players fill out a survey about the other players and then guess the answers. It creates instant animosity that can also prove to be an alliance breaker. In lieu of that challenge, one of those challenges where players can cut the ropes of other players. A lot of times we'll see the pecking order on full display in that one challenge.
And finally, for me, several seasons in a row got stuck in a challenge rut. They were always arranged where the contestants would do some physical activity and collect puzzle pieces, then put the puzzle together. Every. Single. Challenge. This season got away from the puzzles, but quickly fell into a different rut. Instead, they've had the players go do some physical activity and collect balls/sandbags/rings, then complete a carnival game for the win. Challenges are highlights of the show and somewhere along the line, they seem to have forgotten how much viewers like the challenges and how little we like meltdowns and insanity.
Ben Willoughby: I think we here all want the same things from a season of Survivor that Jim laid out - a game that's focused on strategy with players willing to talk about it on camera and no taking things personally and evenly-matched tribes that have to compete each week.
But I'm not convinced that's what the general audience wants. Obviously we're all obsessed enough with Survivor to analyze it on the internet, but I wonder if viewers who are less into Survivor are happy with things the way they are? Maybe they do want to see drama between contestants and good guys winning and bad guys getting their just desserts. Would Survivor really have more viewers if they found 16 strategic thinkers who knew what they were doing and got them to play? I'm not sure.
I realize the obvious flaw in this argument is that Survivor's ratings get lower and lower each season. But is that because the audience is unhappy with the show's direction? Or just the natural decline you get from seeing the same elements over and over again? You could argue that for a show that has been on for 13 years, it has done a pretty good job of keeping its audience. It's still a top 30 show. What shows have been on TV longer? The Simpsons, obviously. And Law & Order SVU. They both rate lower than Survivor.