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‘Survivor’ has changed over the years

Plus: Questions on ‘Contender,’ ‘High School Reunion,’ ‘Made in America.’
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This week, we tackle questions about "Survivor," "High School Reunion," "The Contender" and "Made in America."

And we're introducing our new . Check this page before you send us a question, you may find that we've already answered it.

Not every question we've ever answered is on the page (some are out-of-date now), but it may be helpful to some of you.

The most common questions we get are:

  • Will "The Mole" ever return? (Sadly, it's .)
  • How can I sell my great idea for a reality TV show? (You .)
  • How can I audition for X reality show? (We revisit this periodically, here is our latest go at the question, with , and .

Q: In Survivor: Borneo, when the castaways approached Tribal Council, they hit a gong. How come the castaways don't do that anymore?    —Elizabeth

A: Probably for the same reason there's no longer a gigantic pirate's chest full of cash sitting next to the fire: it was cheesy. When "Survivor" debuted, it's worth remembering that Tribal Council was almost ridiculed because the whole thing seemed so ridiculous, from the torch-snuffing to the soon-to-be-cliche lines ("The tribe has spoken").

Although Jeff Probst takes credit for helping to select the show's catchphrase (producer Mark Burnett was brainstorming and Probst focused on that phrase), he has said that he found the chest full of cash to be ridiculous. The gong itself was a part of the "ritual" of tribal council, signaling a transition, and as of season two, both it and the chest of cash disappeared from the Tribal Council set forever.

Besides the gong, watching the "Survivor" from five years ago feels like watching a different show. The remarkable thing is that "Survivor" was groundbreaking, captivating television, but now, it seems to have aged rapidly. It's just not the "Survivor" with which we're now familiar. By comparison, the new seasons have stronger production values, smoother storytelling, and more fluid transitions.

That dramatic different is apparent because the early seasons have been resurrected on DVD and on TV. The first two seasons are on DVD, and the OLN network is in the process of reairing every episode of the 11-season series; currently, the network is showing "Survivor Marquesas," the fourth season.    —A.D.

Q: I have emailed The WB in regards to wanting to know if or when their second season of the "High School Reunion" reality show featuring Round Rock High School in Texas will ever be available for purchase on DVD. Is this something you might be able to find out for me? I am the mother of one of the featured students and lost what I had taped due to a cable problem.     —Pam

A: Better have your child ask some of the other featured students if they have a tape of the show: A spokeswoman for the WB tells us that not only are there no plans for a DVD of any "High School Reunion" seasons at the moment, but that the show has been canceled and will not be returning this winter.

It's a shame — the show, which lasted three seasons and aired its full season in just two or three months each time, was rather addictive. The show was blunt about things that shows like "Real World" try to hide. Everyone assumes "Real World" casts people to play "The Slut" or "The Gay Guy," "High School Reunion" actually labeled their cast members that way in on-screen titles, including "The Obsessed Ex" and "The Meathead." It was voyeurism at its best to watch guys who'd once mocked "The Outcast" fall all over her 10 years and 150 pounds later.

The show sometimes had to cheat to get its point across. Some seasons included graduates who weren't in the same class as the supposed reunionites, and the show regularly flew in people we'd never seen before to propose to a woman in the class. The show was a bizarrely entertaining reminder of how happy we are to be out of high school, and since it didn't last long, it didn't wear out its welcome.   

And come on, WB — if of an entire season, surely you can do the same.    —G.F.C.

Q: Did Peter Manfredo. Jr. get any money after losing to Sergio?    —Khalid

A: Yes. In fact, all of the fighters who appeared in the “Contender” rematch that aired recently on ESPN received substantial cash purses. Sergio and Peter both received $100,000, as did Jesse Brinkley and Anthony Bonsante, who fought an undercard fight.

Alfonso Gomez received $75,000 for his participation in a different undercard fight.

For Manfredo and especially Bonsante, the money probably doesn’t leave them feeling settled. That’s because both of them lost their fights due to controversial decisions from the judges. The crowed responded with loud boos after Brinkley was revealed to be the victor in a unanimous decision after his match against Bonsante. Manfredo lost due to a split decision, and wouldn’t congratulate Mora after the fight, telling him, “you didn’t win that fight.”    —A.D.

Q: What about [the] "Made in America" show? Is there a Web site for that? —M

A: Yes, You may not have found it because you weren't searching under "John Ratzenberger's Made in America," the full name of this Travel Channel show.

Ratzenberger, best known as Cliff from "Cheers," is an amiable host for this show that fascinates those of us who just didn't get enough field trips back in grade school. He travels, with cameras, to a variety of American factories and companies each week, seeing how everything from Tootsie Rolls to Yankee Candles to KitchenAid mixers are made. I find it intriguing, kind of a not-necessarily-food version of Marc Summers' "Unwrapped."    —G.F.C.

Gael Fashingbauer Cooper is's Television Editor. is a writer and teacher who publishes , a daily summary of reality TV news.