'Survivor' now the fittest reality series
1 hour, 40 minutes ago
Robert Bianco USA TODAY
Who would have guessed we'd come to think of Survivor as the reality genre's classy dowager?
Yet there you have it. Once seen as risky, and even risque, programming, Survivor: The Amazon (CBS, 8 p.m. ET/PT) now seems like the height of high-road TV. Compared with its seedier imitators, it's well produced, the locations are exotic, and the contestants have more on their minds than their prospective marital status.
Sure, the show has had its problems along the way -- Africa was too sour; Thailand was too dull. But next to Are You Hot?, its competitor tonight on an increasingly sad and desperate ABC, Amazon looks like The West Wing. Or what West Wing would look like if it were filled with hot bodies and surrounded by anacondas, crocodiles and piranhas.
Considering all the advance publicity, Amazon's big twist may not surprise you, but it's nevertheless a good one: The tribes are divided along gender lines. The tape provided by CBS was not complete enough for a full review (which is why there's no star rating above). But already it seems as though the boys-vs.-girls split will add an interesting dynamic, both in the way the tribes act and interact.
What you learn in tonight's 90-minute introduction is that the guys are stronger, better organized and far more likely to say something jaw-droppingly stupid than the women. They're fabulously unevolved, terrified at the idea of facing their friends if they lose to a team of women, and equally terrified by the prospect of going home without ''hooking up.''
Otherwise, what's most remarkable is that even after all this time, people continue to make the same mistakes. No one, apparently, has told Roger that it's dangerous to come across as bossy, or told Ryan and Daniel that it's almost always fatal to be branded as lazy. As for Janet, I'm sure she can't help being older and ill, but in Survivor, that's never a winning mix.
On the plus side, there already are a few contestants who look as if they'll be able to inspire a rooting interest. For now, I'm cheering for Christy, the game's first hearing-impaired player, who knows she's at a disadvantage but doesn't whine about it.
Of course, it never pays to place your bets too soon with Survivor.
But it's off to a strong start, and that's what we want from one of the genre's class acts.