lnp3 at SPAMpanix.com
Sun Jan 28 08:49:29 MST 2001
[Tonight marks the first episode of Survival II, set in the Australian
Outback, a sequel to last year's smash-hit TV program set on a remote
USA TODAY, June 1, 2000, Thursday, FINAL EDITION
This paradise comes with a pack of vipers
By Robert Bianco
Watching Survivor is like being stranded on Gilligan's Island with Charles
You're stuck in a beautiful setting with a similar set of annoying,
unnaturally selected castaways. But instead of cooperating, they're
maneuvering to see who can use the coconut phone first. It's like survival
of the ickiest.
Launched on CBS Wednesday, this Who Wants to Be The Lord of the Flies
hybrid follows the adventures of 16 contestants of various ages and types
on a remote tropical island off the coast of Borneo, where they were split
into two competing "tribes." At the end of each episode through the show's
13-week summer run, the contestants vote to eject someone from the island.
The person left standing gets $1 million.
>From the moment the show started, favorites for the title of first-to-go
became clear: Rudy, the Navy SEAL who gave everyone orders; B.B., the
contractor who complained about the "lazy people"; or Richard, the
corporate trainer who wanted to "talk about the process."
NY Times Magazine, January 28, 2001
Survival of the Pushiest
Mark Burnett, the producer of 'Survivor,' has not only created the mother
of all reality shows; he may also have revolutionized how the business of
television is done.
By BILL CARTER
Sitting in a CNN studio on Sunset Boulevard, Mark Burnett stretches back in
a director's chair, half-smiling as Greta Van Susteren fires off a series
of earnest questions about reality TV. Where is it going? How long can the
trend last? What does it say about our culture? Burnett gazes into the
camera like a man surveying his property from a rocking chair on the front
porch. This is television, after all, and right now the amiable, supremely
confident Burnett seems to be the man holding the deed. . .
Even within the often bizarre precints of Hollywood, it's safe to say that
no other producer has a resume quite like Burnett's: British paratrooper,
Beverly Hills nanny, insurance salesman, used-clothing hawker. Michael
Davies, the executive producer of last year's other television phenomenon,
ABC's "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire," says of Burnett and his work on
"Survivor": "There is absolutely, positively, no one else in television who
could have physically pulled off that show. Mark's an adventurer."
This is a running theme in the Burnett legend. He grew up in East London,
in housing built by the Ford Motor plant, where his father worked. His
mother worked in the car-battery factory next door. "I was an only child
and never criticized my whole life," Burnett says. "Unconditional love. You
can't ask for more."
At 18, Burnett joined the elite British Army Paratroop Regiment and was
sent to various hot spots, including Northern Ireland and the Falkland
Islands, where he saw "tons of action," including an all-out battle in
which 24 of the 300 soldiers in his regiment were killed. "Real stuff,"
Burnett says. "Horrific. But on the other hand, in a sick way, exciting."
He could have stayed in the service, he says, but then adds in his still
prevalent East London accent, "After that, do you want to go back and shoot
blank-blanks and run around Salisbury Plain playing silly buggers?"
So in 1982, Burnett headed off to Los Angeles, planning to shuffle down to
Central America, where he heard real money could be made as a sort of
"weapons and tactics adviser" (not a mercenary, he says emphatically). This
plan was scotched when his mother, whose premonitions Burnett had come to
heed unwaveringly, said she had "a bad feeling" about the enterprise. . .
In 1996, two years into his television career, Burnett ran into a fellow
Brit named Charlie Parsons at a party in Hollywood. Parsons was the creator
of the popular and somewhat notorious British program "The Big Breakfast."
He had a new idea, he told Burnett, one for a show about castaways on an
island, and he had been trying to sell it, on either side of the Atlantic,
since 1988. After a few months, Burnett negotiated a deal with Parsons for
the American television rights, and the two of them went from studio to
studio pitching the show. It took almost four years, but they finally found
a taker in CBS. . .
"Survivor" had eight corporate sponsors, including Reebok, Target and
Budweiser. To anyone who watched the show, the appearance of products was
anything but subliminal. Logos of running shoes, towels, even the
occasional beer repeatedly popped up on the screen. "Does the public care?"
Burnett asks. "No. As long as it's done honestly. I'm the first one that's
really done product placement on network. It's an integral part of the
plan." Burnett's plan, in its ultimate expression, is for a production
empire consisting of reality shows, a syndicated variety show, an annual
"Eco-Challenge" race at least as big as the Iditarod and a
sales-and-marketing umbrella big enough to sell them all.
Warming to the subject, Burnett adds, with unblinking earnestness: "I
believe we're going to see something like the Microsoft Grand Canyon
National Park. We couldn't care less if it's I.B.M. Yosemite National Park.
It's like, whatever. If somebody's paying to keep it up, fine. It's just a
name. It's not a bad thing. The purists might go, 'Oh, my God!' But the end
result is, the government won't take care of all that -- companies will.
It's sponsorship; it's associative value."
It's also extremely American, Burnett reminds me. Now married with two
young sons and living in Malibu, two minutes from a house where he once
worked as a nanny, he has reason to believe in the dream. "You know what's
great about America? Being working class and not having that classic
education in England, you're going to struggle. You know what Americans
care about? Results. You do well here, people say, 'Good for you."'
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