Directly following the Super Bowl, millions of Americans were treated to views of the Australian Outback on Survivor II. For good measure, CBS ran the episode again on Wednesday, and now the show that just won't go away faces its biggest test yet — surviving on Thursday nights.
With this bold move, CBS is hoping it can make a dent into NBC's ratings powerhouse Friends. The Peacock network is upping the ante with a special 40-minute version of the hit show, featuring a guest appearance from Seinfeld's Jason Alexander.
And if that's not enough, the rest of the hour will be filled with a 20-minute version of Saturday Night Live. Meet the New Castaways
While we all know our friends at Friends, introductions are in order for the new crew of castaways. After the first Survivor installment, here are my impressions. Some of the players haven't come to the fore just yet, but here's what I see:
First, there's the hunky auto-designer/custom-builder, Colby Donaldson, whose name was likely conceived while his pregnant mother remained transfixed on episodes of Dynasty.
Another standout, Kimmi Kapenberg, a bartender from Ronkonkoma, N.Y., has already regaled audiences with her frank discussions of sexual pleasure, including performing the "solo act."
Then there's Jeff Varner, a handsome Internet project manager who spent his first episode vomiting on camera after eating a bug-laced fig.
Let's not forget Maralyn "Mad Dog" Hershey (no relation to the sweet), who is single (for very apparent reasons), a retired police inspector and who has (for other very obvious reasons), been deemed the female Rudy (the less-than-friendly curmudgeon from the first Survivor).
Of course there is a slew of others, but none worth mentioning in great detail at this point, except maybe for Elisabeth Filarski, a footwear designer who makes Chrissy from Three's Company sound like an intellectual.
I heard Filarski speak for 10 seconds and wished she'd take one of her designer shoes and shove it, heel first, down her gullet.
Let the Humiliation Begin
So, does the new locale match the old one?
We are taken to the Australian Outback, a lush, hot, beautiful place with lots of things that are crawling, creeping, slithering, sliming, squirming, biting, pinching, intoxicating, killing and living among the new cast members.
Once again, 16 castaways are there to be tortured, humiliated, physically tested, and did I say humiliated? Let me point out, though, there are now only 15 left already, since the group booted Debb Eaton, a 45-year-old single corrections officer from Maine. In a 7-1 decision, fellow members of her Kucha Tribe gave her the ax, the proverbial "See ya later, too bad you weren't eaten by a gator."
She was, by all accounts, obnoxious, pushy, overly tough and, in less harsh words than used by others, unattractively unattractive. Just sending Debb on her way brought up the looks quotient, and this includes the entire kangaroo population.
And so the 15 will be forced to withstand the challenges set forth by host-with-the-most Jeff Probst, who, regardless of the conditions, still looks flawless. I think his makeup staff actually paint in the facial growth with an eyebrow pencil to make him look macho, but that's just cynical me.
Paper vs. Animal Rights?
Among the upcoming ticklers and teasers: Kimmi's beliefs may keep her from performing a critical challenge. What I think this really means is that Kimmi is a vegetarian and they want her to eat a crocodile fetus or a sack of scorpion eggs.
If she says no, her team probably won't get toilet paper and will instead be subjected to wiping their bottoms with prickly tree bark. If she says yes, she'll save the team, but systematically eat away at her own brain because she's gone against everything she's ever believed in. We'll just have to wait and see.
Another scenario has Roger, a new swimmer, frantically trying to keep up with his team in an excruciating river challenge. What this means is, if Roger can't float with his fellow Kucharians, they'll vote his doggie paddling butt off the show faster than Puffy could pull out a firearm. If he manages to help them out, he'll be revered as the little island boy that could, although he'll probably never be able to have sex in a water setting because of the traumatic experience. Again, we'll just have to wait and see.
So, despite promising myself that I would not get caught up once again in the ridiculousness of this whole Survivor mania, I already am. I do want to justify my addiction, however, by stating, emphatically, that I am not watching to see who will survive, but rather who will not.
The Threat of Physical Harm
Although I do not intentionally wish physical harm to come to any of the people on the show, I do think it will take something dangerous and unfortunate to finally put this lunacy to rest. If someone doesn't lose a leg from a snakebite or go insane from being forced to eat fossilized feces, Survivor TV will continue to flourish. And, although you may think that boredom will eventually ensue and the craze has indeed passed, those maniacal network execs will up the ante. The jackpot will be raised to astronomical amounts and so will the stakes. (Remember when the $25,000 Pyramid seemed like a big deal — until the $100,000 Pyramid came along?)
Trust me: This will become one giant cycle of madness and no one will be able to get away. Survivor will be a new addiction. Reality Tv-itis will prevail and health professionals worldwide will be forced to take drastic measures to get their patients off the Survivor stuff. Televisions will have to be taken away, magazines removed from the home and radios tuned to round-the-clock polka music.
And if that still doesn't work, doctors will be left with no choice but to treat true reality TV addicts with tough love. They will, ironically, be sent to a remote island with no amenities, no food, no nothin'.
All this just because of a TV show.
It could happen, but not to me. I'm stronger than that … I think.
Who am I kidding? See you in the Outback.
Heidi Oringer is director of entertainment programming at ABCNEWS Radio.