The "granddaddy" of reality TV: A guide to Eco-Challenge

Well, just like the Rose Bowl, it's that time of year again for the granddaddy of them all (or at least of reality TV), Eco-Challenge: Fiji.

The idea for Eco-Challenge was conceived in 1992 by Mark Burnett, who created frenzy for the reality genre with the original Survivor series that aired in the summer of 2000. The Eco concept was based on New Zealand's multi-sport and European endurance races, and is the world's premiere expedition race, attracting the best athletes from around the world.

The racers compete nonstop for 6-12 days over a demanding and sometimes treacherous 300 mile stretch on foot, bike, river rafts, horseback, kayaks, and more. Each team is comprised of four members and must contain at least 1 man or 1 woman.

The first team to cross the finish line with all members wins the race. If a team loses a member for any reason (illness, fatigue, or disagreement) the entire team is disqualified. Only teams that know how to work together have any hope of crossing the finish line.

Along the route are "passport control points" which all team members must go through in the correct order. These cut off points also have time limits attached to them which teams must beat in order to remain in the competition.

This year the featured competition includes a team of reality TV veterans including reality celebs, Jenna Lewis (Survivor) and Ethan Zohn (Survivor: Africa) as members of Team Mad River. (the FORT), provided words of encouragement to their team (and others) last year through messages via the official Eco-Challenge website.

Most viewers (including myself) walk away each year questioning, "Why on earth would anyone WANT to do this to themselves?" Well, it's definitely not for the money! In fact, it costs money to participate. Somewhere in the range of $40-$50,000 per team after entry fee and equipment costs, which is why many teams have corporate sponsorships.

Whether an "Eco" newbie or veteran, you don't want to miss the latest installment which concluded late last year in Fiji and airs the first week in May, 2003.

Eco-Challenge: Fiji schedule
USA Network: May 5-8

Monday, May 5 (10-11pm)
Tuesday, May 6 (10-11pm)
Wednesday, May 7 (10-11pm)
Thursday, May 8 (9-11pm)

Program repeats @ 12am each night

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