Hygiene issues on ‘Survivor’ can get hairy

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/ Source: msnbc.com contributor
By By Andy Dehnart

Wondering about how a certain reality show pulled something off? Have a question about a certain contestant?

Whether it's "Survivor," "American Idol," "The Apprentice," "Real World" or another show, send in your questions. Andy Dehnart, msnbc.com's Television Editor and creator of Reality Blurred, will try to answer them.

Q: On “Survivor,” I have noticed the women's legs, underarms and eyebrows never grow crazy (like the men's beards). Do they give them razors and allow them to shave for TV purposes?— Dawn-Marie B., Commack, N.Y.

On “Survivor,” are the women allowed to take personal hygiene items for “that time of the month”?— Melissa

Almost every “Survivor” show has started with the contestants learning that they have to go with whatever they are wearing. Why in the world do they wear such skimpy dresses? And this season they were all given bathing suits and tennis shoes? Why was that?— Debbie, Louisville, Ky.

The contestants do not have access to razors, nor do they shave during their time on the island. Any lack of growth you notice probably has to do with waxing or laser procedures, or the quality of the footage on your TV screen.

"Survivor" host Jeff Probst was actually thrilled to answer that very question when a reporter asked it during a conference call last week, as the host said even his mother asks him if the contestants get makeup before Tribal Council or other TV-friendly cosmetic procedures.

His answer was a definite no on all accounts. "There is absolutely nothing, nothing," he said. "They are given exactly what we say they have." He noted he wasn't sure why some contestants appear to look fresh and seem clean-shaven all the time. As to their hairiness, he said, "I think some of the people get a laser procedure that will go in a little deeper than a shave will go."

As always, the cast members do receive essential items such as tampons and condoms, and he said that birth control comes into play soon, as there are "love affairs this season, plural," including "some of the most intimate footage we've ever had."

Regarding their clothing, cast members’ clothes are essentially selected by producers to make sure their clothes work on TV (e.g., don't have logos or odd stripes) and meet their other needs. Last season, contestants received shoes before a challenge when they needed them, and got their own bathing suits in tree mail one day, perhaps because their underwear was getting too ratty and skimpy and making the censors work overtime.

Probst said producers "strip-search them before the show," and "control all of" what they bring with them in their bags. That's why contestants don't wear, as Probst said, "three pairs of underwear" or bring better clothes along. And producers make decisions about what else to offer contestants, like the swimsuits that appeared during "Survivor: China."

Q: Where are the “Apprentice” DVDs? I purchased season one in February 2005. There have been no other seasons available yet. Are we up to season six yet?— Anonymous

So far, no luck and no more Apprentice DVDs! What's the story?— J. Schreier, Naples, Fla.

The track record of producers releasing reality shows on DVD is rather sketchy, and depends upon all kinds of factors, from sales to buzz. "The Apprentice's" distributor, Universal Studios, has just decided not to offer additional seasons.

While some shows, such as "Project Runway," have all of their completed seasons available on DVD, others are more selective.

"Survivor," for example, has released only six of its 15 seasons on DVD, and they weren't released in chronological order.

Initially, no one thought to release full seasons of reality shows on DVD, instead choosing to provide highlight reels. But as watching serialized, scripted shows on DVD became more popular, producers got smart and started releasing full seasons of reality shows.

If you want DVDs of a particular show, the best way to encourage studios to release one is to ask. Perhaps if enough people make the same request, they'll consider spending the money. In the meantime, keep your eye on TVShowsonDVD.com, the best resource for monitoring upcoming TV DVD releases — including reality shows.

Q: Each team on “Amazing Race” is issued money at the start of a leg in U.S. dollars. Where do they get their money converted into the local currency?— Lora T., Houston

Teams convert their money where everyone else does — at currency exchanges in the airports, at banks or at places such as hotels. Since this doesn't exactly make compelling television, we usually don’t see those transactions on TV. However, teams do need to be smart about changing money, both in terms of spending time and wasting money on fees or bad exchange rates.

On the penultimate episode of "The Amazing Race 12," the decision to change money affected one team and resulted in some drama, so it was included as part of the episode.

Nate and Jen decided to change money instead of wait in the immigration line, and while they did that, TK and Rachel passed them, getting in line first. We've seen a few similar scenes throughout the race's history.

It's also worth noting that some countries readily accept U.S. currency, so exchanging their money might not always be necessary. 

Andy Dehnart is a writer and teacher who publishes reality blurred, a daily summary of reality TV news.