Survivor TV Poster Image




Plotting and scheming in paradise for $1,000,000.
Popular with kidsParents recommend

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The show's nature encourages lying, manipulation, deception, and selfishness -- not exactly glowing messages. And producers sometimes encourage conflict in the way they structure the teams -- dividing them by races or age groups, for example. That said, tribes and alliances do work together in challenges and at camp, some contestants seem to rise above the show's essential greed, and some episodes' reward challenges celebrate world cultures.

Positive role models

Most contestants play by the motto "nice guys finish last." Some Survivors are sarcastic and make snide jokes and comments about each other; others have stolen from their fellow castaways, and secret alliances (and betrayals of those alliances) are common.


Survivors frequently get mad at each other, but game rules prohibit acts of violence (though there have been some angry confrontations). Some seasons have included accidents such as someone falling in the fire or accidentally cutting themselves, but nothing too graphic. Some injuries during challenges.


Some flirting. Occasional blurred/pixilated nudity when competitors bathe and/or start to lose their swimsuits during challenges. Some of the women wear very skimpy suits on a regular basis.


Strong profanity is bleeped out; words on the level of "bitch" are allowed and not uncommon.


Everything is sponsored, from challenges and rewards to "honors" given to various contestants during the commercial breaks. Brand-name cars, soft drinks, toilet paper, candy bars, and more have all served as rewards.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Survivors sometimes win rewards that involve alcohol, and sometimes they get tipsy. No underage drinking. Very occasional smoking.

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.

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.

Families can talk 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?

TV details

Premiere date:May 31, 2000
Cast:Jeff Probst
Genre:Reality TV
TV rating:TV-PG
Available on:DVD, Streaming

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What parents and kids say

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Adult Written bysusanrogers April 9, 2008

Good Lessons Here *IF* Parents Also Watch and Discuss

Survivor is one of the very few non-PBS programs our family watches. Before I ever saw it, I would ridicule and make fun of those who did watch it. Now we are hooked. My son is 12. I think kids starting around 11-12 can watch this program, but that's ONLY if parents are watching with them and discussing a lot of what goes on. Even teens should have parents watching and discussing with them. The show provides many opportunities to talk about values, ethics and morals -- is it ever OK to lie? If so, when? What personality qualities make a person likable? What behaviors show us that someone is a jerk, or immature, or very self-centered, and that we wouldn't want to be that person's friend if they lived in our town? Survivor also gives a family a rare chance to observe and discuss group dynamics -- how people function together when they don't know each other well, and when no one is appointed the leader. Why do the best leaders -- the most likable and competent people -- never win the million dollars? How do the people who last the longest manage to do it? (Answer: they either lie and manipulate people, or they never initiate anything -- they stay quiet, work hard and go along with others rather than leading anything on their own.) What can we tell about a person's basic, true personality by the way they function in the group, especially during the first few days? Sometimes people swear and that's bleeped out. Sometimes a swimsuit will fall down or a person might otherwise be exposed -- this is digitized over with a "blurring" effect. Occasionally they get some wine -- that provides an opportunity to discuss what happens to you when you drink -- you lose judgement and say things you otherwise would never want to say. One episode had a situation where a woman wrongly accused a man of improper sexual advances. The entire camp witnessed the high drama and confrontations that spanned more than one week of the show. At first I was dismayed, but then used it as a great opportunity to talk about the potential for real misunderstanding between a man and a woman, and how honest communication is much better than accusations and hysteria. It's also important to discuss Survivor as a media production. It is NOT a reality show -- in reality, 16 people plus cameramen would not be plunked down in the middle of nowhere. There are frequent opportunities to discuss how the producers make us (the viewers) think something is going to happen because of what video they show, but then by the end (or next week) you are surprised by what happens, and then you know that the editors and producers simply chose not to show the conversations and situations that would have clued you in. This provides lessons about "what is TV, really?" and "why do they do it that way?". You'll see great cinematography in the outdoor setttings -- landscapes, ocean and animal shots. The Reward and Immunity "challenges" are imaginative and clever. In the end, it's only TV and we could live without this show, but it's easy to see why Survivor has survived so much longer than any of the other so-called reality shows.
Kid, 11 years old January 7, 2011

The Best Show Ever!!!

I love this show, but there are some iffy parts
What other families should know
Too much swearing
Too much consumerism
Parent of a 1 and 5 year old Written byBuckyD December 8, 2010

We watch as a family, with lots and lots of discussion.

I always hate people that give advice that covers every kid. Certainly the advice, generally given, is that no kid under the age of 10-12 should watch Survivor because of the dysfunctional behavior and social interactions that are portrayed on-screen. I mean, really, I'm a trained Psychologist, so what am I doing exposing my preschooler to this kind of role model, right? Well, it really depends on the nature/temperment of the kid and whether or not you can be there during the show to explain why these social shenanigans are occurring, and how the game is set up to make people behave in that way. While my daughter still can't sit through the perilous scenes of an animated Disney movie at 5 (think: Ursula in Little Mermaid or the Shark scene in Nemo), she can so totally grasp the intentions of the "contestants" on Survivor and understands how to see things from each player's view. In that way, she can provide a narrative of the driving force behind what each person says, and dare I say has some empathy for their plight -- even if they end up lying. We have ample opportunity to discuss bad words, bad motives, and bad friendships. We try to predict who was the most persuasive prior to Tribal Councils and who will do better at the challenge games (because of strength, smarts, eating, or motivation). We discuss how people must feel when they aren't able to eat good food, how leaders rise to their positions -- and can be dropped from those positions if they become too bossy, and how even liars wrestle with their decisions to lie (with a few exceptions, that is). If you think that similar sorts of "social games" don't occur in school, think again. I'd like to think that exposing my kids, with lots of explicit instruction about what they're seeing, to small doses of this behavior allows them to not be caught off-guard or devastated when the group dynamic at preschool/elementary school shifts out of their favor. It happens.
What other families should know
Too much swearing


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