A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this show's early success is largely responsible for the explosion of reality TV programming. While it airs in early primetime, it's not always family viewing: Survivors sometimes swear and like to "get back to nature" -- but you might too, if your clothes got as dirty as theirs. Producers will sometimes divide teams along controversial lines (race, age groups, etc.) to shake things up, and virtually every activity the Survivors take part in is backed by a corporate sponsorship. Bonds of friendship are made to be broken as the players struggle to outwit each other in order to win. No one is above back-stabbing a friend when $1,000,000 is on the line.
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What's the story?
In award-winning reality show SURVIVOR, a group of strangers (usually 16, sometimes more) ranging in age from 20ish to 60ish is "cast away" for 39 days in a remote tropical location and divided into tribes. The tribes compete against each other in challenges for rewards or immunity from elimination (once the number of players dwindles significantly, they start competing individually instead of at the tribal level). The last contestant standing wins $1 million and the title of Sole Survivor. Even as they form a society and work together to build shelters and win the challenges, the Survivors vote each other out of the game one by one at tribal council -- a formula that's been copied by countless reality/game shows since, from Big Brother to The Bachelor to American Idol. But the game changes in unexpected ways each season, too, deliberately churning up surprises: Past gimmicks have included bringing back players who were voted out, switching up the tribes after a few days, exiling players to a special island, dividing tribes along controversial lines (race, age groups, etc.), and so on.
Is it any good?
It's not a stretch to call Survivor innovative and educational. The game requires contestants to learn and employ wilderness skills and work together, and each season takes place in a different part of the world, with the history and culture of the region incorporated into the show. Challenges test not only Survivors' physical strength but also their knowledge of local traditions and their ability to solve puzzles and problems. Terrific wildlife footage gives viewers a close-up look at exotic insects, snakes, spiders, sharks, tigers, alligators, etc., depending on the location.
As it has progressed, the series has wisely spent less time focusing on the Survivors' day-to-day ailments and more time emphasizing their social interaction and competitive ability -- which always makes for more compelling reality TV. Fans of the series will find plenty to enjoy in each installment, although some parents won't appreciate the fact that lying and backstabbing are so prevalent.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what it means to be a true survivor and how "real" the show is. Do you think the contestants are ever really in danger of starving or getting seriously hurt?
Are the players really the way they seem on TV, or does editing shape how they come across to viewers?
Do you have to cheat and lie in order to win this game? Is it ever OK to lie, and if so, when?
For kids who love reality TV
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