Some 'Survivor' Scenes Were Reenactments

ByABC News
May 10, 2001, 6:22 AM

L O S  A N G E L E S, May 10 -- Are the makers of the hit"reality" series Survivor breaking the rules of the game by re-creating certain scenes?

Survivor executive producer Mark Burnett admitted thisweek he sometimes reenacts scenes of his hit CBS show to get amore picturesque shot. But he said he sees no reason why"reality" should stand in the way of production values.

"This is not a documentary," he told Reuters Wednesdaywhile some industry observers questioned the need for thepractice.

Burnett insisted his occasional re-shooting a scene withstand-ins was for aesthetic purposes only and that the behaviorof the contestants as they compete to win a $1 million cashprize remained completely spontaneous and unscripted.

"Nothing that we do changes the dramatic outcome, or thesporting outcome or the emotional outcome of anything," he saidin a telephone interview.

Blurring the Lines

But Burnett, whose success in turning contrived humanconflict into hit television has changed the face of primetime, has raised new questions about the line between fictionand nonfiction in the popular new genre he helped pioneer.

"Knowing that Mark Burnett is staging certain events tomake them look better on camera is only going to play intotheories that the game isn't being played on the up and up,"said Matt Roush, chief critic for Guide magazine.

Nevertheless, Roush said most viewers would likely shrug itoff. "There's so little that's truly real that happens on thisshow anyway," he said.

Close to the Edge

Robert Thompson, executive director of SyracuseUniversity's Center for the Study of Popular Television, agreedno one should be too surprised. "This is not the quiz showscandal," he said, referring to revelations in the 1950s thatseveral enormously popular prime-time game shows were rigged.

"On the other hand, this is pretty close to the edge of whatwe believed were the rules of this game," he said.

"The reason Survivor is better [than other realityshows] is that it is so beautifully shot, it is so cinematicand now we're finding out that it's because it is shot like amovie."