Category Archives: Survivor

Season Premiere – Survivor: Tocantins: “Let’s Get Rid of the Weak Players Before We Even Start”


“Let’s Get Rid of the Weak Players Before We Even Start”

February 12th, 2009

Every year of Survivor is in search of two things: a gimmick and a character. These are the two things that have made seasons that could have been weak into something very fascinating, whether it was the introduction of Exile Island or even the Fans vs. Favourites format that didn’t feel like it should have worked but resulted in a very engaging season.

In terms of Survivor: Tocantins, this really isn’t a season about any gimmicks: while the show tries to start off with a big shocker, the game itself is its usual self, the location similar to what we’ve seen in past seasons. Instead, it’s going to be a question of whether or not there is enough character at play here, whether we can get the kind of intrigue that we got to see last season in Gabon. There, though, the intrigue was driven almost entirely by people making highly emotional decisions, something that cannot be predicted or manufactured.

But that isn’t going to stop the show from trying: from the word go, the show wants this season to be about first impressions, about baseless accusations and judgments that are not close to reality and instead ask them to cast aside actual human interaction in favour of cheap shots. As a result, I’ll provide my own fairly baseless first impression: there is no sign here that this season will be able to expand the show’s usual structure, and while I think there are some characters worthy of some interest I’ll just unilaterally decide that it’s going to be a pisspoor season.

And then I’m going to watch it anyways – I’m not all about first impressions, and I think even the show is aware of this.

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Who Won Survivor Gabon, and Did They Deserve It?


Who Won Survivor: Gabon?

I may have written almost nothing about it this season, but Survivor: Gabon has been an intriguing and entertaining season of Survivor. It hasn’t been that interesting as a far as the game structure itself, which is the same as ever, but the casting people have managed to put together a variety of people who are either desperate to control the game but lacking the wits to do so, or wonderfully flighty in such a way that dramatically impacts the game despite a distinct lack of forethought. Some tribes were dominant, some contestants were emotionally unhinged, and there was enough of a story to keep me as entertained as we’ve seen in the past.

Heading into the finale, the cards were dealt: Sugar the flip-flopping pin-up girl, Bob the physics professor who has dominated the latter part of this game, Matty the personal trainer who has performed well, Ken the video gamer who thinks he owns this game, and Susie who…has done absolutely nothing of note.

Considering this, we ask ourselves the big question: did the winner from the three-person final tribal council reflect the game’s broader developments, or was it another instance where the jury got it wrong?

Let’s find out.

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And the Winner is…: Brief Thoughts on the Survivor: Fans vs. Favorites Finale

This will be quick, I’m about to collapse out of exhaustion from a long day of graduation festivities, but below the jump some quick thoughts on tonight’s Survivor Finale.

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‘Survivor’ Moves to High-Definition – ‘TAR’ next?

If there has been a single complaint regarding the move to High Definition television in my house (Or Dorm room, whichever we want to go with here) is that some series remain in Standard Definition. Now, yes, in some cases they are still of higher quality on the HD channels due to signal clarity, but where’s the widescreen? Perhaps it’s because we get spoiled, but tuning into a reality series is a break from our traditional viewing experience.

Now, the barriers are clear: HD cameras are expensive, and reality shows require a lot of them for the various activities which take place. Let’s face it, the whole point of reality television is that it is cheaper than hiring actors, and there are few reality shows that would really benefit from the shift.

However, as Variety reports, one of the shows that will is finally making the move: Mark Burnett is taking ‘Survivor’ HD for its 17th (!) season starting in the Fall. The move will be much appreciated by this viewer, at least – as someone who has stopped watching Survivor out of emotional attachment and has started viewing for the challenges and the novelty of it all, more landscape to look at will prove beneficial.

As the article points out, there are specific challenges to this: Survivor requires a lot of underwater cameras, and in many cases a ridiculous number of angles on challenges or at tribal council. To go to HD will complicate their angles, also, as the wider viewing space might change framing and other such things.

But there are visual advantages: the beauty of the locations has long been a Survivor staple, and now they’ll be even prettier. And while I am somewhat worried about what HD will do to the unkempt competitors, it will just feel more real…and isn’t that the point? (Answer: No, but let’s pretend)

However, while I appreciate the shift for Survivor, the real question that even the Variety article asks is: is The Amazing Race next?

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Cultural Learnings’ Fall 2007 Lineup: Thursdays

Yes, I am aware that there was a delay in posting Thursday’s lineup, but there was a reason for this. I’ve been anxious over this day in particular because, as per usual, it remains the most packed night of programming on the Fall Schedule, especially for me. And last night, I decided to see whether I might (finally) be able to cut Survivor out of my Thursday lineup. And, well, see below for whether or not that worked.

The Office

Airing four hour long episodes early in the season before Scrubs premieres, The Office is taking on Grey’s Anatomy single-handedly this year. It hopes to sustain last year’s ratings, and certainly has a decent shot at it. There’s some exciting developments heading into this season (Ryan as the boss, Jim/Pam, etc.), so even some uneven episodes won’t keep me away.

Cultural Learnings’ Review of The Office Finale 

30 Rock

This Emmy-winning comedy has the unfortunate circumstance of being located within a rather difficult timeslot: sure, it belonged to The Office last year, but it’s also against two other shows I’m interested in covering. Still, it gets this particular spot regardless of that development: the show was too good last season to consider putting on the backburner, although it doesn’t debut for a while yet.

Cultural Learnings’ 30 Rock Coverage 

Survivor: China

Yeah, I’m weak: as much as I might claim I can disconnect from this series in its 15th season, it just isn’t happening this time around. The cast of characters have already had a chance to make their impact, and the challenges despite repetition are usually enough to suck me in. I’ve tended to skip the Tribal Council sequences more now, but the point stands: I’m covering Survivor.

Cultural Learnings’ Survivor Coverage 

The Other Shows

Ugly Betty and Grey’s Anatomy are in a tough spot for me, one in terms of time period and the other due to a weak third season. Ugly Betty ended its first season on a high note, and certainly has a lot of momentum moving forward. But I never feel like I’m “caught up” in it, which is the way I perhaps felt about Grey’s Anatomy before a frustrating last stanza. The George/Izzie relationship took out a lot of steam, so it’s going to be wait and see for the series.

I’ll also be watching Scrubs when it returns late in the year, although my interest in that series has also wained.

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Filed under 2007 Fall Preview, 30 Rock, ABC, Grey's Anatomy, NBC, Reality TV, Scrubs, Survivor, Television, The Office, Ugly Betty

The Three Most Disturbing Trends of the 2007/2008 Upfronts

Each year, the Upfronts create a series of trends which show what the networks are really thinking for the following year. They take what was successful the year before, and they decide that they should just copy all of that into their own schedules. For example, Lost’s success led to three different sci-fi copycat shows the following season: Invasion (ABC), Surface (NBC), and Threshold (CBS). Similarly, after the success of Prison Break, networks switched to serial conspiracy/action dramas like Vanished (FOX), Kidnapped (NBC), and Smith (CBS). This season has seen a variety of different trends, and some of them actually seem quite good on the surface. However, I think that there is actually a number of bad precedents being set which we should all remain aware of as next season begins.

The Three Most Disturbing Trends of the 2007/2008 Upfronts

3. The Procedural Nature of Television Drama

I’ve expected it from CBS for many years, now: all of their dramas are unlikely to have any sort of serial aspect, choosing instead to stick to procedural structure. Law & Order really started it off, CSI picked up the ball and kept running, and there is surely to be a new franchise waiting in the wings with time. It’s a quality which the networks love, since it means people can just sit back and watch a single episode without getting too caught up in the previous week’s action. And, I like some of these dramas: they can be compelling and fun to watch, and they repeat well for the purpose of syndication. However, I don’t want to see all procedural and nothing but procedural dramas.

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Filed under ABC, American Idol, FOX, Grey's Anatomy, Heroes, House, My Name is Earl, NBC, New Amsterdam, Private Practice, Reality TV, Sarah Connor Chronicles, Survivor, Television, The Amazing Race, The Apprentice, The CW, The Office, Upfronts, Veronica Mars

Network Upfronts Extravaganza – ‘CBS’ 2007/2008 Fall Schedule

CBS has gone with what, for them, likely seems to be a rather risky lineup (Variety). However, the thing for CBS is that their idea of taking a risk is taking two Tylenol instead of one: it’s just a little dangerous, but there’s still no chance of anything negative happening.

CBS launches with a lineup which, despite new entries, seems awfully familiar. It is still anchored by three CSIs, it’s still got a large assortment of procedural crime dramas, and it still has a dose of reality where it counts. It is for this reason that any risk they take is really not risky at all: as soon as one of their new shows fails, they’ll just plop in a CSI rerun and wait until the next series is ready to go. This is the way CBS operates.

The New Fall Shows

Cane – A Latin-American family, led by Jimmy Smits, enters into the alcohol business. It still sounds a lot like ABC’s Brothers & Sisters in Latino form, but with Smits at the helm the show carries gravitas. It’s not a huge risk for CBS at all, except that they’ve had trouble with such shows in the past. It’s a serial drama, and the network has nothing but procedurals at the moment (No, seriously, look at the lineup if you think I’m lying. Every single returning drama is a procedural drama.) Still, they’ve got to start being successful with serials at some point, and Cane has a shot.

Timeslot: 10pm on Tuesdays

Competition: Tough, with Boston Legal and Law and Order: Special Victims Unit to contend with.

Swingtown – A drama about the swinging lives of various romantic couplings, it’s both raunchier and less procedural than anything else in CBS’ lineup. This is an attempt to get a Desperate Housewives-style hit for the network, and I don’t think it will prove successful. The show has potential, but it just seems to be trying too hard to be THAT show. You know, the one the Parents’ groups get all uppity about. As a result, I worry about it becoming self-conscious, and losing any creative edge it perhaps had.

Timeslot: Held Until Midseason

Competition: We don’t know yet, but I don’t think it bodes well for the drama. It could be asked to slot in early should Cane falter in its tough slot, and that’s asking the drama to rush itself…and that would be disastrous for this particular show.

Viva Laughlin – A musical-comedy-crime drama surroundinga man who wants to open a casino in Laughlin, Nevada. I don’t really know what to think about this one: it’s a bizarre coupling, and with Hugh Jackman as producer it is certainly a unique experience. I would have more faith in the series if likely jobless Veronica Mars creator Rob Thomas was coming on as showrunner as rumoured, but that appears to be off the table. For me, the show needs to prove that its construct is a good one, and can’t just rely on being quirky to succeed. I think that’s a tough job for a show on a network where simple = successful.

Timeslot: 8pm on Sundays

Competition: Tough. Extreme Makeover: Home Edition is never an easy show to beat, and it has to hope to compete with Sunday Night Football for its audience.

Moonlight – A vampire private investigator who, well, investigates supernatural happenings in a procedural fashion. The show is a likely companion for Ghost Whisperer on Fridays, and perhaps has the best chance of succeeding since it’s basically “Generic CBS Procedural + Vampires”. I think it will be a far cry from shows like Buffy or Angel which actually dealt with the true supernatural elements of their stories and created mythologies…Moonlight just wants to masquerade as such a drama to make it stand out within a crowd, which does little to interest me.

Timeslot: 9pm on Fridays

Competition: Weak. Moonlight has a good shot at continuing CBS’ dominance of the night with only ABC’s weak Girls Murder Club and NBC’s Las Vegas to worry about.

Big Bang Theory – A comedy from Two and a Half Men producer Chuck Lorre, this sitcom is…well, your tradition multi-camera sitcom about geeks and hot girls and blah. It’s depressing to see it getting the nod over more interesting single-camera fare, but the reality is that CBS is looking for its next King of Queens or Everybody Loves Raymond (Ratings wise), and they expect to find it here. However, this is a comedy about young people (Kaley Cuoco, 8 Simple Rules, stars), not about old people. This is a young person’s sitcom being expected to play the role of a middle aged one, and the result is likely to be another The Class: high expectations and decent results behind How I Met Your Mother

Timeslot: 8:30 on Mondays

Competition: Average. CBS’s comedies are successful counterprogramming, they’ll pull through just fine.

The Returning Show Details

The Amazing Race is officially off the fall schedule, as it will be held over until the new year and only air a single season this year. This is unsurprising, but troubling; I worry that if ratings are low for this one season they’ll pull the plug. I think that the show has plenty of gas left, but a lot of miles on the car. They can keep driving, they just need to slow down a little and everything will be okay. It’s like Speed. (Note: Everything can be like Speed. True Story). It will be indirectly replaced by a new reality show, Kid Nation, a new Lord of the Flies-esque story of kids taking over a ghost town revealed today (Variety). It will be airing on Wednesdays at 8pm

The New Adventures of Old Christine, the 5th Wheel on the Monday comedy block, will be returning midseason.

Shark and Without a Trace have switched spots, with the latter moving back to its old post-CSI slot and Shark spending some time on Sunday Nights against Brothers & Sisters.

The Departed

It’s official: Jericho and Close to Home are no longer on the air. This was pretty well confirmed on Tuesday, but they’re definitely gone. Also gone is “The Class”…but no one notices.

For the full Fall Schedule, continue on.

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Filed under How I Met Your Mother, Jericho, Reality TV, Shark, Survivor, Television, The Amazing Race, Upfronts

Why the ‘Survivor: Fiji’ Finale (But Not the Winner) Made Me Really, Really Angry

I must admit that the ‘Survivor: Fiji’ Finale was one of the best in recent years, with a wide range of twists, turns, drama and a tribal council with the usual amount of really, really frustrating comments that make me want to strangle these people. And yet, in the end, I was mostly angry. Really, really angry.

WARNING: Spoilers for the finale will be found within. Be warned.


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Network Upfronts Extravaganza – ‘CBS’ Preview

EDIT: CBS has officially revealed its upfront schedule. For all the details, head to:

Cultural Learnings’ Analysis of CBS’ 2007/2008 Fall Schedule.

So, you’re CBS. You’re the #1 network for the first half of the year until FOX rolls out American Idol, right? You have multiple high-performing hours of drama each and every week, and seem to have little problem launching new comedies on Monday nights. So, when it comes to the upfronts, what exactly are you looking for? CBS faces this problem every year, and the result is usually an attempt to engage younger viewers while in reality continuing their streak of repetitive programming. However, as their pilot season last year demonstrates, this is not always an easy task, and despite their ratings success CBS has a lot of catching up to do.

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Filed under Jericho, Survivor, Television, The Amazing Race, Upfronts

Thursday Night TV Club Memo: NBC Supersized, 10pm Guests

This is just a quick note for what promises to be a hectic Thursday evening. Thanks to some unfortunate circumstances, I am faced with a very large dilemma: there’s way too much TV on tonight, and I’m not going to be able to watch it all within the next day since…my “VCR” is out of commission. *Cough* Ahem.

As a result, I’m going to have to choose carefully what I choose to watch.


ABC’s got a fairly strong lineup, to be honest; Ugly Betty (8pm)is heading towards its finale with some momentum behind the Betty/Henry romance, Grey’s Anatomy (9pm) is certainly dramatic with its George/Izzie issues, and the new drama Traveler is something to consider…but at the same time there’s nothing pressing about watching these particular shows. I already watched Traveler (10:01pm) last summer, Ugly Betty is unlikely to be spoiled for me, and Grey’s has been far too annoying recently considering I still think this George/Izzie thing is just plain stupid.


CBS has a unique schedule as well, tonight, with a former friend occupying the 10pm slot. However, it starts at 8pm with the penultimate episode of Survivor: Fiji. I’ve been following the season, and feel obligated to see it through to the finale this time (I missed the finale last season). It’s nothing too interesting, but it’s also the most likely to be spoiled for me tomorrow. CBS then loses my interest, but gains the interest of others with a new episode of CSI at 9pm, followed by the return of Without a Trace at 10pm on Thursdays for its 5th Season Finale. Considering that recent timeslot occupant Shark is likely to depart the timeslot, could it be moving back full time? It’s possible.


Here’s where the real problem lies, because NBC is once again going with a Supersized lineup this evening. My Name is Earl’s 2nd Season Finale runs from 8:00pm EST to 8:40, and then The Office runs from 8:40 to 9:20, followed by Scrubs from 9:20 to 10:00pm. They close the night with the rapidly declining ER (Hitting Grey’s last week was not good for the show), but it’s a real scheduling conundrum regardless of what airs at 10pm.

If I watch the NBC comedies (Well, The Office and Scrubs) I’m watching less TV than I could if I watch Survivor and Grey’s instead. Heck, think about how awful it would be if I was not appalled by FOX’s “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?” and wanted to watch its two back-to-back episodes where someone attempts the Million dollar question? Or, if I was addicted to Supernatural and Smallville, airing new episodes on The CW (I totally almost wrote fresh episodes, damn you The WB! *Shakes Fist*)?

It’s quite a night for the Thursday Night TV Club…I’ll check in later with details on what I watched, but if you have any suggestions please let me know. And, for the love of all things good, don’t forget that The Office is supersized and miss any of it when TiVoing!

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Filed under ABC, FOX, Grey's Anatomy, NBC, Reality TV, Scrubs, Survivor, Television, The Office, Traveler, Ugly Betty