“Survivor”: a worthless social experiment for the ratings

The Sept. 14 debut of the new CBS reality show “Survivor: Cook Islands” has been surrounded with much controversy in response to the island tribes being assembled solely on race. Survivor creator Mark Burnett has effectively played the race card, in an effort to raise the ratings of the program, which has seen a steady decline in the survival of its own audience’s allegiance. Seemingly, after seeing drops in ratings as severe as 29.8 million in 2001 to 16.6 million in 2005, the new format seems nothing short of a cheap ploy to win back the reality show viewers. Not surprisingly, the new format did not go ahead without a few setbacks, as CBS lost sponsors Johnson & Johnson, Coca-Cola, Procter & Gamble, and their largest, General Motors. “Survivor” host Jeff Probst embraces the new format, calling it “a social experiment like never before,” which stems from past criticisms of lack of diversity in the “Survivor” cast. This claim seems unlikely even though the show might be able to pass as some sort of experiment. Will certified Hollywood professionals manipulating the cast of a reality-based television series boost ratings when viewers are given racial segregation theme shows in the comfort of their own homes? Some of those who are brave enough to travel the blogosphere are buying into the idea of the new format as a valid experiment. One individual stated that he could not wait to see if “racial solidarity will prevail” when the teams of separate races are eventually fused into one. Millions wait in painful anticipation. Who can blame them? After all, this is likely to be the single most important reality-based television series yet to be seen by the not-easily-impressed-or-bought-and-sold viewing public. I sincerely believe that we are on the brink of a very important discovery. But who is to thank for the discovery, which is about to be revealed? All of us, my friends. Isn’t that the greatest part about it all? Naturally, whenever any great experiment involving race is performed, there will be opposition to it. The idea is that instead of proving stereotypes of different ethnicities to be false, shows such as the new “Survivor” will actually perpetuate these stereotypes. In the end, what can really be learned from watching people of different ethnicities attempt different reality show challenges? Very little. These people are not a representative population of the world in which we live, and the tasks performed on “Survivor” are not indicative of mouse droppings. Those who are making too large a fuss over the show should wise up, as this is an episode which will not survive for long and will be soon forgotten.