A group of New York City officials blasted CBS and its hit series “Survivor” on Thursday, a day after the network announced that the teams on the new season of the reality show will be divided by race.
Saying that the setup will promote divisiveness, the officials called on CBS to reconsider its plans.
“The idea of having a battle of the races is preposterous,” said City Councilman John Liu. “How could anybody be so desperate for ratings?”
For the first portion of the 13th season of “Survivor,” which premieres Sept. 14, the contestants competing for the $1 million prize while stranded on the Cook Islands in the South Pacific will be divided into four teams — blacks, Asians, Latinos and whites.
Liu, who is Asian-American, said he was launching a campaign urging CBS to pull the show because it could encourage racial division and promote negative typecasts. He and a coalition of officials, including the council’s black, Latino and Asian caucus, planned to rally at City Hall on Friday.
In a statement, CBS Entertainment, which is part of New York-based CBS Corp., defended the ethnic twist, saying it follows the show’s tradition of introducing new creative elements and casting structures that reflect cultural and social issues.
“CBS fully recognizes the controversial nature of this format but has full confidence in the producers and their ability to produce the program in a responsible manner,” the statement said. “‘Survivor’ is a program that is no stranger to controversy and has always answered its critics on the screen.”
Last season, the show divided contestants into groups of older men, younger men, older women and younger women.
The show’s host, Jeff Probst, said the network was aware this season’s race ploy might offend viewers.
“It’s very risky because you’re bringing up a topic that is a hot button,” he told The Associated Press service for younger readers. “There’s a history of segregation you can’t ignore. It is part of our history.
“For that, it’s much safer to say, ‘No, let’s just stick with things the way they are. Let’s don’t be the network to rock the boat. Let’s not have “Survivor” try something new,”’ he said. “But the biases from home can’t affect you. This is an equal opportunity game.”