When you tune in, you see them, each with dreams of glory and each hellbent on surviving the grueling competition for the ultimate reward.
From the time they arrive on the scene, their biggest challenge is to light a fire and maybe inspire those around them. They plot whatever strategy they can, never knowing if, in a day or a week, they’ll be voted out. I’m talking here about the Democratic candidates, but, I suppose, the description also could apply to “Survivor: All-Stars,” the eighth and most eagerly anticipated installment of the reality series.
Given the huge popularity of “Survivor,” one might question whether CBS’ decision to run it after the Super Bowl squanders a golden opportunity to launch some midseason series from that coveted spot. It seems a bit like taking out insurance that snow will fall in Buffalo, N.Y., during the winter. But, gilded lily or not, there it is.
For this series, exec producer Mark Burnett brought back 18 of the most memorable “Survivor” players, virtually ensuring outrageous antics, familiar faces and dramatic sound bites. The players are divided into three teams of six, but until the very first immunity challenge, each knows only the identity of his or her teammates. (For the record, the teams are named Chapera, Saboga and Mogo Mogo, which sounds like the title of a Polynesian law firm.)
Although the overall format is identical to previous “Survivors,” this incarnation, taped off the coast of Panama, appears to be a more physically demanding contest. Each team is given only a pan, a machete and a map that leads to a well with bacteria-laden water. Still, it’s hard to reach any firm conclusions because CBS decided that, unlike with movies, miniseries and other shows, reviewers of “Survivor” couldn’t be trusted not to give away the outcome.
Consequently, the network lopped off the last third of the premiere episode from its review tapes.
What there was to see suggests a show given to more hyperbole than ever before, starting with the arrival of the contestants under cover of armed military escort, both in the air and in the water. That’s a little more firepower than necessary, considering that the only real threat is from NBC and “Friends.”