New Inside Survivor contributor and top bloke, Heath Chick, takes a brief look back at the dodgy history of Australian Survivor and tells us what we can expect from Channel TEN’s new season.
It may have been fifteen years since the first locally-produced series of Survivor aired in Australia, but fans from the “Land Down Under” are licking their lips at the thought of the world’s most popular reality TV show returning to their screens this month.
While the Survivor in the US has enjoyed phenomenal success over 32 seasons, Survivor in Australia has endured a more troubled, and at times controversial, existence.
There’s no doubting the thirst of Australian fans for the show, yet there has been an ongoing struggle between fans and television networks that have ultimately challenged the very survival of Survivor. Even the US edition, while hugely popular, is shunted by Australian television networks to secondary channels rather than taking up valuable primetime viewing on a popular channel.
Back in 2001, the first series of Australian Survivor was commissioned as part of a deal by Channel Nine to broadcast the original Survivor: Borneo season. The Australian series was low budget, poorly produced and rated accordingly. It was later discovered that the final four wanted to quit the show due to the poor mental state of one of the contestants, but producers threatened to withhold prize money and forced the game to play out.
Basically, it was a car wreck, and it didn’t receive a second season renewal.
Some five years later and a rival network decided to try their luck with the Seven Network rolling out Australian Celebrity Survivor. As any reality TV fan knows, any show desperate enough to go with a celebrity format is in trouble before it even starts, especially with a game like Survivor where fans want to see some aggressive strategy. However the tone was set when the first tribal council saw one celebrity vote herself out of the game, and the season struggled to gain momentum from there.
The season was only a moderate success and again was not renewed.
It seemed like Australian Survivor had been voted off the island for good. That was until last year’s announcement that the third major TV network in Australia, Channel Ten, would take their shot at the show with Australian Survivor set to return to primetime viewing from August 2016.
Casting auditions attracted tens of thousands of applicants, and the show has steadily built a wave of media hype over recent months. Channel Ten have had success with reality shows such as Big Brother, and I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here, and their younger demographic seems to be a natural fit for reality television.
One of the interesting twists has been the announcement that Australian Survivor will have 24 contestants and will be played over 55 days – much larger numbers than the US version – which already poses a huge risk for the show. Clearly, Channel Ten are going to give Survivor a massive push, with multiple shows likely to be aired every week, but it does raise the question of why are they messing with a format that has already proven itself a success over 32 seasons in the US? We can only speculate as to what effect a longer season will have on strategic alliances and gameplay on the show, but we must also consider how it will affect the viewing audience. Casual fans may just get burnt out by the Survivor overload, and may not make the distance of such a long season.
Die-hard fans may also struggle. We all know that there can be lulls in the gameplay in the middle stages of the season pre-merge and that slow period is only going to be more obvious with the extra contestants that need to be booted this season. Will there be enough gameplay in the middle stages of the season to keep us interested?
While the season length is a risk, Australian Survivor seems to be doing a few things right.
The setting for this season will be in Samoa where four seasons of the US edition filmed (Samoa, Heroes vs. Villains, South Pacific and One World), and they are utilising consulting resources that have previously worked on the US show. Throw in ruggedly handsome actor Jonathan LaPaglia as host, and Australian Survivor has the right formula to be a success.
But ultimately it’s going to come down to the contestants. Do they have enough appeal and enough game to hold our attention all season?
At first glance, there appears to be a diverse mix of personalities and players, although there has been some criticism regarding the lack of ethnic representation. The question remains as to whether they have a deep enough understanding of the game of Survivor. Through 32 seasons in the US, the game of Survivor has evolved into a game full of sharks where there aren’t too many fish in the waters. Are the Australian players advanced enough to play like a shark? Or will they be floundering around like a fish-out-of-water, with rookie errors and soft play that will make hardcore Survivor fans cringe?
Whatever is set to unfold, we hope this season will captivate fans and engage with a new audience so that this season won’t be the last for Australian Survivor!
Heath will be one of Inside Survivor’s regular contributors covering the new season of Australian Survivor which is scheduled to premiere later this month.