For some time now there’s been much discussion in the Survivor fan community about a new season of the show that goes back to basics. That means a season with no hidden immunity idols, no tribe switches, no themes or any twist at all for that matter. It would also mean there season wouldn’t rely on a certain theme, or division of tribes by physical attributes (i.e Brains vs Beauty vs Brawn.) In theory it might sound like a smart idea to go back to a classic ‘no frills’ version of Survivor but in practice there are more than just a few reasons why it could be fraught with problems. In today's feature article Ozlet Julian Groneberg looks at the many reasons such a season could backfire. Read on for why creating a back to basics season might be a production decision that we’d later rather forget.
Get Ready For A Pagonging
Without any tribe switches, the chances of a ‘Pagonging’ are far more likely going into the merge, making for a predictable and boring end game. In Survivor more often than not, one tribe dominates in the pre-merge section of the game, leaving uneven numbers come the merge, and a string of predictable episodes as the smaller tribe are picked off one-by-one. Even crafty editing would do little to save a season where one tribe was completely decimated before the dominant alliance is finally forced to turn on each other.
Survivor Tocantins was the last time that we had the closest thing to a classic season of Survivor, with 16 players, a final two and no tribe switches. It was something of an anomaly that the former Jalapao tribe managed to overturn the numbers of Timbira tribe. Expect that to be the exception not the norm if we were to go back to a classic season. As we saw in season 31, the three tribe format, coupled with tribe switches meant there was limited loyalty to tribal lines and that meant a much more open and unpredictable came going into the merge. An unpredictable merge is the secret to a successful season of Survivor with tribe switches and early merges helping facilitate this unpredictability and shifting of tribe loyalties.
A 16 Person Cast Leaves Little Room To Move
16 person casts might work well if the entire cast is memorable (e.g Survivor China) but unfortunately having only 16 castaways leaves the show with very little wiggle room if one of the contestants were to quit or be medevaced. This would mean we’d be left with an episode without a tribal council, and while this has been dealt with as best as possible in the past, there’s no doubt that when it happens it can be a bit of an anticlimax and an unfortunate way to end an episode.
Also, with a larger cast such as 18 or 20 people, if some of the cast are to quit or be medically evacuated, we can still have a tribal council in the same episode. One more thing: a larger cast means that if there are a few dud contestants that are boring on screen they can be given fewer confessionals. Better than having a cast of 16 with 3 or 4 boring characters who manage to make it deep in the game, and giving us little to work with. A smaller cast forces production to more to rely on the same characters for confessionals and narrating the story.
Would Be Difficult To Promote
Without a point of difference such as a new twist of division by gender, social class or physical attributes, a classic style season of Survivor could be difficult to promote. Its a long time since the days where a new location offered enough intrigue to promote the next season of Survivor in its own right. Having a theme like White Collar, Blue Collar and No Collar, or a new twist (ala Blood versus Water) makes for a massive talking point pre season – and we all know how well received Blood vs Water was.
Each time there is a new twist or theme such as White Collar, vs Blue Collar vs No Collar, these are always front and centre in the promotion of the season, giving less serious Survivor viewers more incentive tune in. Its easier to entice people to view a season which promises to pit members of different social classes against one another than just promising ‘16 regular Americans.’ While promoting a classic season may ge the more hard core fans excited, the show’s casual viewers may be left wondering why they should care.
Would Mean Less Dramatic Tribal Councils
Without hidden immunity idols, tribal councils would undoubtedly be a lot more predictable. There’d be no reason to split votes, and none of the risk that that strategy involves. Also, without idols, there’d also be none of the suspense of wondering whether people are going to play their idol or not, and we’d miss out on the excitement and drama of someone being completely blindsided as they are ‘idol-ed’ out of the game, ala Andrew Savage.
A classic season with no idols would also mean less strategy in regards to whether people choose to keep them a secret or share their idol information. When you have a season with idols in play, there is always an element of uncertainty in each vote, less safety, and that can mean people need to consider different strategies. Like it or not, idols are here to say, and generally speaking Survivor is more exciting because of it.
Why Survivor Needs To Continue to Change Things Up
I can understand the criticism between such twists such as Redemption Island, the Blood vs Water format and Exile Island in how they affect the purity of the game and take screen time away from camp life. The fact is however is that Survivor is a game that has always been evolving. If we were to suddenly go back the classic format that we had seen in the early seasons, we’d likely be lamenting that there’s a lack of action and strategy, and everyone is too comfortable. A lack of twists would mean the show would have to focus more on day to day camp life. I don’t know about others, but after seeing 31 seasons of the show there’s only so many times I can watch people search for fish, cook rice or moan about who’s not doing enough work around camp. We’ve seen it before.
So to those wishing for a ‘no frills’ Survivor season, I say, be careful what you wish for. The audience’s tastes have evolved and Survivor is a far more fast moving game than is was back in the first five years of its production. After the excitement, the twists and the turns of a season like Survivor Cambodia, going back to basics could make for the most boring season we’d see in a long time. When it comes to the audiences appetite for unpredictability, the twists keep the show fresh almost 16 years on. The show’s ability continue to adapt and evolve is the main reason the show remains on the air today.
Are you a fan of a return to a back to basics season? What possible benefits or problems would we see? What’s the biggest reason it could backfire?
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