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News Eagle - Hawley, PA
Columnist and author Melissa Crawley writes about what's hot on TV.
28 seasons and counting, ‘Survivor’ is still great TV
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About this blog
Melissa Crawley has a PhD in media studies from Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. Her book: Mr. Sorkin Goes to Washington: Shaping the President on Television's \x34The West Wing\x34 was published in 2006. She has also published work online ...
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TV Reviews
Melissa Crawley has a PhD in media studies from Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. Her book: Mr. Sorkin Goes to Washington: Shaping the President on Television's \x34The West Wing\x34 was published in 2006. She has also published work online at PopMatters and Flow as well as chapters in the edited collections: The American President in Popular Culture and The Great American Makeover. Her weekly syndicated television column, Stay Tuned, is part of GateHouse News Service. Follow her on Twitter @melissacrawley
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By smal3082
May 12, 2014 6:20 a.m.



When I was a PhD student in Australia, I gave a guest lecture on “Survivor” to a packed auditorium of undergraduates. To kick things off, I asked the crowd how many of them watched the show. (The Australian version was airing at the time). There were about 250 students in the room. Twenty or so raised their hand. It wasn’t a good start.

The lecture turned out ok in the end but the lack of enthusiasm for the show surprised me. It’s about people on an island eating little more than rice, enduring physically exhausting challenges and spending their off time trying to backstab one another to win a million dollars. What’s not to love?! And I did love it for about four seasons. (The U.S. version, that is. The Australian version never quite captured the same spirit). But after a while, I stopped watching. Other reality TV seemed more interesting. How long could this crazy show last anyway? Turns out the answer is 28 seasons.

Any series that has lasted that long deserves a re-visit and I was hooked from the first episode of “Survivor: Cagayan.” It had me at the random group assignments (beauty, brains, brawn—a great psycho-social experiment in its own right) but the best part was when a member of the “brains” team became angry because her teammates didn’t want to scheme before tribal council. They wanted to have an open forum to discuss who would be voted off. The horror! She was incredulous in her to-camera interviews. Don’t they know how to play this game? You could feel her disappointment.



“Survivor” has never been about honesty and trust but 28 seasons in and it’s really not about honesty and trust. In my long ago lecture, I analyzed the show for its postmodernism, ritual, voyeurism and narrative plotting. In the early days of the series, one cast member stood apart as the most devious. Now, not only is everyone a villain, everyone knows that everyone is villain. So when they’re not trying to win immunity on little to no food, they exist in a state of paranoia.

Watching a group of suspicious people be overly suspicious doesn’t sound like a recipe for ratings success. But what keeps everyone’s paranoia from becoming tiresome is that their knowledge of the game after all this time, doesn’t make them any better at it. This season, (no spoilers here unless you haven’t watched the first two episodes) a professional poker player is completely blindsided by a vote to kick him out and a woman who tosses her team’s rice supply into the fire in a moment of anger gets to stay. Think about that for a minute. A man who bluffs for a living didn’t see the bluff coming and a woman who literally puts her team in jeopardy of starving is triumphant. That, in a nutshell, is why you need to watch “Survivor.”

“Survivor” is on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. EDT on CBS.

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