It’s been fifty years since the Civil Rights Movement and what do we have to show for it? Black people exiled to their own island!
That’s the basic – and dare I say, brilliant – conceit behind the next season of Survivor. The show will have four tribes, split along racial lines. One tribe is white, one is black, one is Asian and one is Hispanic, and they’re all competing for one million dollars.
The question is will the challenges be fair? What if more of them are math oriented, giving the Asians the lead? What if there’s a bunch of swimming challenges, leaving the blacks in last place? What if there’s a dance off, and the white team gets decimated? What if there’s a challenge where you have to sneak past guards and under barbed wire to get the immunity idol? And with all that sub-Mind of Mencia level race humor out of my system…
I think this is a fantastic idea. There are plenty of people who hate on Survivor, but that’s usually because they haven’t watched the show or they’re stupid. Or both. I’m not a big Survivor viewer, but I have seen enough – especially the epically excellent Survivor: Palau, which is getting a DVD review from me some day – to know that when the show is cast well and the challenges are smartly conceived, it’s one of the best things on TV.
Of course reality TV gets a bum rap in general, often by people who change the channel to watch crap like My Name is Earl. The best reality shows are the ones like Survivor, which are just game shows on PCP – they offer dramatic competition as well as dramatic human interaction. And when Survivor, or any other reality show for that matter, is at its best we can really get some great human drama from them. Sure these shows edit things to create more tension and make everything more narrative-friendly, but the basics are there.
What I love about this concept is how directly it addresses the racial issues in America today. Morgan Spurlock has a Klansman live with a family of Jewish Rwandans with AIDS for 30 days, but that’s essentially meaningless and gimmicky. What’s interesting is seeing the real and obvious racial lines – ones that are visible as early as your school lunchroom, when the races almost always sit apart – exaggerated in this competitive environment. One of the things Survivor always does is merge the tribes after enough people get kicked out, so there will be your cultural friction. And the best part is that if it doesn’t go well it will be a stunning disaster, which is always fun to see.
I’ll be adding Survivor: Southern Lunch Counter to my TiVo season pass, that’s for sure.