Category Archives: Pirate Master

Summer TV Wrapup: The Biggest Flop(s) – Pirate Master and On the Lot

It is no coincidence that the two shows that have tied for the Summer TV Wrapup recognition of The Biggest Flop have something in common. Mark Burnett created Survivor and The Apprentice, and immediately rocketed into the upper echelon of reality TV producers. He’s the only one who is a personality, a character in his own way. While this usually helps him, it has actually made his fall from grace this summer all the more damaging. Pirate Master (CBS) and On the Lot (FOX), two sure-fire hits, flopped this summer, and Mark Burnett is the man to hold accountable for that fact.

Pirate Master suffered from the very beginning from both poor ratings and a lack of cultural buzz. While the show was not terrible, it was criminally derivative: it didn’t deviate far enough from the Survivor formula to bring in new viewers, and its failure proves that people aren’t watching Survivor because of its quality but rather because it’s Survivor.

The show was cancelled 2/3rds of the way through its run, and will spend the remainder of its time on The show never had the personality, never had the host, and never had the magic touch we’re used to seeing from Mark “Midas” Burnett. In failing to live up to that pedigree, it was by far one of the summer’s biggest flops.

Cultural Learnings’ Summer “Pirate Master” Coverage

On the Lot, meanwhile, had all the pedigree you’d usually need: Burnett was not only attached as producer, but so was legendary director Steven Spielberg. It was supposed to be FOX’s buzzworthy summer hit, but they forgot something very important: the summer viewing audience aren’t movie geeks.

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Canceled – ‘Pirate Master’ Walks the Plank…for good.

According to Variety, CBS has officially canceled Pirate Master (Which apparently some of you predicted since I’ve been getting hits about it for a few days). The remaining five episodes will air online only.

This is yet another blow to Mark Burnett, who has stooped so low as a celebrity edition of The Apprentice for next season. The state of reality television is falling further and further, and I don’t know whether that slide is going to be able to stop any time soon.

This news isn’t surprising to anyone: with low ratings and Big Brother arriving for its summer run, the show basically just got pushed out of the public eye…and it was barely in the periphery to begin with.

Swimming with the fishies in Davy Jones’ locker be its fate now, mateys.

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“Thar she Moves Timeslots, Mateys”: Pirate Master relocates to Tuesdays at 10

With about as much fanfare as you’d expect for a series struggling in the ratings, Pirate Master moves to Tuesdays at 10pm tonight due to the return of Big Brother for its eight season. The show will have a lead-in (Big Brother’s Tuesday edition), and should be able to do decently.

Still, is anyone really paying attention? From watching the CTV commercials for the series, it appears as if the series has yet to take a single honest-to-goodness twist. Survivor is a series that producers will always mix up when things get boring, but here they’re relying on the shipmates themselves to do the mixing…and they suck at it.

Will people tune in tonight to watch Pirate Master on its new night? Considering that CBS killed two shows within three months in this timeslot last year, something tells me “Arr, no” might be the answer we receive.

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‘Pirate Master’: Things Happened This Week!

[EDIT: Pirate Master was canceled in late July, and its remaining episodes will be streamed online every Tuesday at]

Last week I promised that I was going to stop watching slowly sinking Pirate Master…but after finishing up tomorrow’s For Your Consideration piece, I decided I’d turn on the TV and see what was going on. So, my impressions are only of the first 15 minutes…and I feel like I just transported into a bizarro world.

A Change in Leadership!

Azmyth, who didn’t even get to TALK in the first episode, is suddenly the captain of the ship. I assume this means that the team without the captain (Joe Don) on it lost the expedition, which is at least a necessary twist in the game. Also, Azmyth taking on an accent gave Cameron an opportunity to actually make an ad-lib!

Vive la Revolution!

Man, everyone seems really happy all of a sudden. I refuse to believe that this happened without the assistance of mind-altering drugs, can someone confirm or deny this? It seems way too sudden, as if Azmyth gave them all money…wait, did he give them all money? That seems possible.

People Have Opinions!

Much more like a Survivor tribal council, the people at “Pirate’s Court” had things to say, people to talk about, concerns, questions, and everything else you could imagine. Even one of the officers got to talk, which was just fascinating for me. Apparently with new leadership comes new energy and openness, which was certainly one of the show’s downfalls.

Things Happened!

I will assume things happened in the actual episode itself, but there was a tie! The crew is divided! The captain makes a fascinating and nearly incomprehensible decision! This has never happened before!

I don’t know about you, but I kind of like this game of just watching the last fifteen minutes: it’s much more interesting when I have to guess what has happened in the previous part of the episode. The show is still not perfect, but I have a suspicion that this episode might have it on a better track. Did anyone else brave the entire episode? Was it so soul-crushing that the conclusion couldn’t save it? Please let me know.

Next Week on Pirate Master: Sean is dead to Jay! Joe Don tests Jay’s loyalty! And a treasure surprise sends the pirates SPINNING! Looks like things might get even more interesting…but who knows.


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Ratings Update: Sharks Circle Around ‘Pirate Master’

I might not be watching the series anymore, but I certainly am still watching the ratings for CBS’ Pirate Master. And while it isn’t the huge decline that hit FOX’s On the Lot earlier this summer, it is certainly bad news for the struggling reality series. – Thursday June 7th Fast Nationals

Week two of CBS reality dud Pirate Master lived up to that description, with a disappointing 6.34 million viewers (#2) and a 1.9/ 7 among adults 18-49 (#2t) from 8-9 p.m. Comparably, Pirate Masters opened on May 31 with 6.99 million viewers and a 2.3/ 6 in the demo, based on the final nationals.

That means that the show dropped roughly 10% of its premiere viewers, while dropping a more disastrous 17% or so in the key demos; and this is without the same level of competition as last week! CBS, like FOX with On the Lot, is likely to stick with it to avoid admitting defeat, but Pirate Master will certainly not be returning for another voyage any time soon.

Also of note: ABC’s Fast Cars and Superstars failed to ignite racing fans:

Earlier in the evening on ABC was the debut of Fast Cars & Superstars at (an also estimated) 5.62 million viewers (#3) and a 1.9/ 7 among adults 18-49 (#2t) at 8 p.m.

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The Five Reasons I am No Longer Watching ‘Pirate Master’

Well, Mark Burnett, I gave Pirate Master two weeks of my time, but unfortunately I am not going to be able to continue walking the plank, dropping the anchor, or rigging the sails any longer, as Pirate Master has outstayed its welcome. I was all ready to follow you from sea to sea, from adventure to adventure (I even made a photoshop template last week, Mark, come on!). However, I’ve decided that sticking with it will only frustrate me further, so I should cut myself adrift before the ship sinks for good. But, of course, I can’t just say goodbye without letting you know my reasons for leading my mutiny.

5. The Confusion

On Survivor, and every other reality show, the rules are usually fairly simple (Or are ever-changing, like on Big Brother). Here, however, everything is left vague. Rules pop up out of nowhere, the Captain starts tossing around money as if it’s a normal strategy play, and the eliminations aren’t surprising but rather completely underdeveloped. It’s one thing to make a thinking man’s reality show, but it’s another to make one that only a doctorate thesis could properly dissect at this rate. They needed to set the rules down in this episode, and all they did was make them more confusing.

4. The Editing

Very simply, Mark Burnett has forgotten how to edit things. In the Eco Challenge era, he pioneered characterizations in reality television through smart editing, making sure that rivalries were fostered and created. Here, none of that seems to be present: the comments chosen for talking heads are often highly cliched, and fail to ignite any sort of character within these people. It is the job of the editing to make even boring people look good, and it just isn’t working here. There are no stories for these people, no identities. It’s not entirely the fault of the editing, but it should be stepping in to save these people. Speaking of which…

3. The “Pirates”

Reality contestants need to be either interesting or outrageous, and this cast consists of neither. When they’re asked to explain things in talking heads, like Cheryl explaining the Black Spot process, they are embarassingly terrible actors. When they were clearly told to dramatically look at the marked crew members and the captain during the elimination ceremony, they were wooden and terrible again. These people just are not good reality contestants. This episode at least showed them doing more of the work on the boat, which was cool, but none of them could even build a story around themselves. This episode boiled down to weaknesses, not strengths, and its highest profile pirate (Azmyth) didn’t even speak last week. That’s a cast filled with nobodies.

2. The Host

Cameron Daddo, you are not funny, charming, entertaining or engaging. I do not care when you’re on screen, and you don’t even try to get me to take your silly chest of Zanzibar seriously. A reality TV host is supposed to make even the most mundane challenege intriguing: when Jeff Probst or Phil Keoghan are stuck talking up a crappy challenge, they damn well make it sound like the best thing ever. Daddo just maintains his monotone perspective, believing that all pirates are soothed by stoic speech. This is not the case, and I certainly don’t tolerate it either. A good host could have steered this ship away from the sharp pointy rocks of suckage, but Cameron Daddo is not that host.

And finally, the #1 Reason I’m no longer watching Pirate Master…

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‘Pirate Master’ Walks the Ratings Plank

Edit for July 24th 

Pirate Master has officially walked the plank for good, as CBS has pulled the show from its lineup and will stream the remaining episodes online each Tuesday. For more info, head to Variety. Or, really, less info, it’s not very informative.

So, Overnight Ratings are in, and Pirate Master was not embraced by viewers. At all. This highly advertised CBS Reality series was supposed to make a big splash, but it wasn’t appointment television for viewers [You can read Cultural Learnings’ full recap for more info]:

In series-premiere news, Survivor-clone Pirate Master on CBS did not fool the audience, with just 7.09 million viewers (#2) and a 2.4 rating/ 8 share among adults 18-49 (#2) from 8-9 p.m. Considering how tired the Survivor franchise is, what sense did it make introducing the same show with a different title this summer? Wouldn’t it have been better resting the format, and filling the hour with a game show? Bad move, CBS.

Now, there’s multiple reasons this probably took place.

1. Competition

The show faced competition from Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grade? and the Scripps National Spelling Bee, along with repeats of My Name is Earl and 30 Rock. A special event, an established reality series, and some solid comedy reruns: that’s a tough-ish draw for the summer.

2. The Jericho-fan led CBS Boycott

I’m not entirely convinced that the Jericho numbers are substantial enough to skew things at this stage, but CBS is certainly having some trouble launching what was supposed to be a sure-fire success. That’s got to count for something, and is definitely a buoy for the campaign. Yes, that’s right, a buoy. A Pirate Buoy.

3. The Mark Burnett Curse

Survivor might be surviving, but with The Apprentice gone and FOX’s On the Lot falling fast, Mark Burnett has gone from reality-tv poster child to washed up failure. Well, not quite, but still: his days as Midas have ended.

4. People were all Pirated-out

With At World’s End tearing up the Box Office over the past week, were people just already too mired in pirate-talk to really embrace such a series?

5. It was boring

While I think the premise has potential, the first episode definitely wasn’t a fast-paced affair. It was more of a “Here’s what could be interesting in the future”, which would turn people away fairly quickly.

Will this signal an end to CBS’ reality dirge? It is unlikely, considering they’re likely to just develop more. Still, for new summer reality series, things are not looking good in the least.


Filed under Jericho, Pirate Master, Ratings, Reality TV, Television

‘Pirate Master’: Series Premiere Recap and Review

If you’ve watched Survivor before, Pirate Master will seem extremely familiar. It has 16 average people out of their element, it has challenges that feature keys and maps, it has interpersonal relations that challenge the patience of its competitors, and it has really fancy opening credits. And yet, with all of these comparisons to Survivor, you might think that Pirate Master is little but a derivative of Mark Burnett’s first reality smash hit. And well, it is derivative…but not really in a bad way. Believe it or not, I think I’ve secretly been craving a decent Survivor clone for a while now.

Pirate Master takes the basic elements of Survivor and includes within them an initially confusing structure that unveils slowly through this episode. In this episode, teams are first introduced to their home, the Picton Castle, and then immediately embark on an early morning journey to their first challenge. Here, split into teams of two, they compete: the winning team divides the treasure amongst themselves, and then the winning team elects a captain. That captain gets to pick two officers, and they get to stay in a posh captain’s quarters and be safe from Pirate’s court, where one of the pirates is sent home…but the pirates have the option of declaring mutiny against their captain as well.

Confused? Well, the episode rolled it out at a slow enough pace for it to resonate, and the result was a glimpse at what could be coming in future weeks. And, perhaps most importantly, there were glimpses at the type of drama that the structure can create. Not only are people competitive for the cash prizes (In the form of gold pieces), but they also have to deal with direct subordination and mutiny within the ranks. It adds some nice layers to the proceedings, and it gives reason to the often petty dislike that spreads within these reality shows. Unofficial authority figures are one thing, but real ones? They’re just scum.

Now, the show is not without problems: right now, host Cameron Daddo is more than a little bit absent from the proceedings, and he needs to develop a personality quickly (Note: Australian does count as a personality automatically, but I think he isn’t Australian enough to do with it and it alone).

The show’s biggest problem took place in its challenge: a sprawling, multi-part journey, it was basically a Survivor race challenge…but without Jeff Probst’s constant commentary and without the same sense of urgency as the teams were separated by a fair margin. Rather than being on a set path, things were quite hectic, resulting in a challenge that never really seemed dramatic. These treasure hunts are likely to vary slightly, so I hope others can step up to the plate.

However, on the whole I think Pirate Master has its priorities in the right place: like Survivor, the show’s very structure immediately created villains and heroes. Gruff Louie (Pictured), a Rupert clone of sorts, is immediately the hero as he rails against authority, while Joe Don immediately plays the role of arrogant villain as captain. Meanwhile, the two officers (Ben and Cheryl) each become pawns: they represent the authority, but yet have no true power themselves. They’re safe, but yet targeted, created conflicted minds. And then there’s the rest of the crew, left to swab the decks and plot mischievously. And plot mischievously John does, as the cocky Scientist/Exotic Dancer combo makes a power play to try to save himself at episode’s end.

This opening hour didn’t even introduce us properly to every character, and that’s definitely going to be a challenge for the show: while some personalities came through, there is really only Louie and John that stood out. Hopefully, over the next few episodes more people start to break through and make a difference. The show is missing Survivor’s Tribal Council discussions where everyone gets a voice, and the result is a disconnect with those people we haven’t even really met yet (One person I don’t think even spoke). As a result, there is yet work to do.

And yet, perhaps naively, I enjoyed myself. The concept has intrigue, there was enough fun characters to make this particular episode charming, and I’ve always been a big fan of the pirate-related reality television I’m imagined in my mind. The result is that I’ll be tuning in next week: we’ll see if anyone else feels the same as the ratings come in tomorrow afternoon.

Didn’t catch the episode? Want to remind yourself of what occurred, or who received the black mark and why? Continue reading for Cultural Learnings’ full recap.

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Summer Ratings Update: ‘Traveler’ Gets Lost, ‘Hidden Palms’ Remains So

Last night saw the first real full night of nothing but summer programming, and there was mixed results across the board. [All Ratings Information Courtesy of]

The most disappointing result is for ABC’s Traveler, their attempt at launching a serial drama in the summer of all places. The show re-aired its pilot at 9pm (It previewed after of Grey’s Anatomy earlier this month), and then aired its 2nd original episode. The ratings results, however, were not too kind to the drama.

That led into a repeat of the Traveler pilot at 4.99 million viewers (#4) and a 1.6/ 5 in the demo (#4) at 9 p.m., followed by the Wednesday 10 p.m. time period debut of Traveler at a disappointing 6.20 million viewers and a 2.1/ 6 among adults 18-49.

Finishing a distant 2nd to a repeat of CSI: NY is nothing strange or out of the ordinary, but it kind of sucks for the drama as it now has little chance to succeed. It will air out its 8 episodes over the next two months, and likely won’t be returning next year with numbers like these.

The CW’s Hidden Palms, meanwhile, failed to make an impact at 8pm either. This isn’t too surprising, but looks like The CW will indeed leave this season without a single new non-reality show left.

In series-premiere news, long-awaited CW drama Hidden Palms was hidden in the ratings, with a mere 1.82 million viewers and a 0.7/ 2 among adults 18-49 from 8-9 p.m. Obviously, that was last in the hour.

ABC, disgustingly, had decent ratings for the debut of its celebrity impersonation show that was just utterly terrible. Honestly, my parents had it on for a few minutes and it was entirely unpleasant. How more people watched this than Traveler boggles the mind.

ABC had better results with the launch of the non-scripted The Next Best Thing: Who is the Greatest Celebrity Impersonator?, which was the most-watched show at 8 p.m. with 7.75 million viewers (and a second-place 2.5/ 9 among adults 18-49).

FOX continued to find success with its audition phase of So You Think You Can Dance?

Fox got over the “hump” in winning fashion, with a first-place Wednesday finish in the fast nationals courtesy of 9.21 million viewers and a 4.0 rating/12 share among adults 18-49 for So You Think You Can Dance from 8-10 p.m.

The Summer Programming continues tonight with CBS’ entrant: Pirate Master, from Mark Burnett. Filling into Survivor’s timeslot and following the schedule of that show’s first season, the show has a decent shot of making a splash…except that Survivor’s concept is by now a bit dated, and I wonder whether people are really looking for an apparent carbon copy of it. However, viewers can walk the plank for the show’s premiere at 8pm EST on CBS.

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