Admittedly, we aren’t even half the audience we once were. Thirty-six million watched the finale in 2001; 13 million watched in 2011.
And chances are we will never know the likes of Boston Rob or Rupert or Sugar or Parvati again. Although we can still dream. And we do.
I am talking, of course, of “Survivor” fans. The few, the proud, who are still hanging in there with the original and still by far the best and most elementary reality television series.
“Survivor” began it’s 24th American season last Wednesday night. I was there for the first episode of the first season on May 13, 2000 and have seen every season in between save “Thailand” (just couldn’t get into it, like many others). Some seasons have been dry, most have been entertaining, many have been downright bonkers (thank you Coach, Russell Hantz, Richard Hatch).
A couple of years ago, after having his head stuck too long in the psychic bee hive known as “American Idol,” pop culture writer Adam Graham stumbled on “Survivor” in, you know, it’s 116th year. So now he too is an addict.
So this season we’ll try to offer some perspective on the show. It will probably mostly be me since as far as I can tell Adam is busy offering commentary on everything from pop videos to “F Troop” reruns. But hopefully he’ll chime in here and there.
So far this year seems promising. The competitors include a definitely not-for-exploitation-little-person who actually seems cool. And a gay person who seems to have studied Nathan Lane in “The Bird Cage” for verbal and physical cues.
Lots of Big Hunky Guys. Lots of Babes in Bikinis. Most of these people take on human characteristics — most — as the show progresses but during the first hour’s introduction they’re just a jumble of stereotypes.
I wept slightly at the end of the first episode because the first casualty was a spunky tattooed Betty Boop type straight out of the Tom Dream Factory who broke her wrist falling down a net. Definitely a big ouch, visible surgery potential.
The catch this season is it’s girls against guys, and they’re sharing the same campground. Which already puts the girls down one. Except the shivering gay guy makes it no secret he’s a girl all the way. Not sure the girls want him, and that’s nothing against Nathan Lane, he’s great on stage, just not on an island.
“Survivor” tends to favor lunkhead guy strength initially, unless women form early alliances and hold true; unfortunately, in a girl vs. guy thing like this the guys can win all the early challenges, eating away at the female tribe. But we’ll see how it goes.
The key to “Survivor,” beyond its “Hunger Games” without-dead-children rules, is host Jeff Probst, the coolest head to ever reign over a reality show. He doesn’t stand back all-knowingly — he comments, prods, reveals, stokes and calls bluffs. He’s a singular talent and whoever tagged him at the beginning got lucky.
OK, on with the game.