Survivor: Pitching the show

Opinions - July 7th, 2000
Robert J. Collins

by Robert J. Collins

“Whatta ya got? Talk to me, baby. I’m a busy man. Talk to me.”

“Well, I have this idea for the next phase of Survi­vor. It would…”

“Survivor! Blockbuster of blockbusters. Biggest thing to hit entertainment since movies started talk­ing. Pulling in millions, partner, tens of millions.”

“Yes, well, the next phase of Survivor would take place in…”

“More people tune in to Survivor than pro wres­tling. Our own Websitre. Answering questions, johnny, answering questions on the Internet. Think about it.”

“The next phase of Survivor…”

“Let me stop you right there, sweetheart. Up front, I’m tellin’ ya, we want rats. People eatin’ them. Live volcanoes. People in terror of them. Disasters lurking around every corner. People stunned.”

“That’s exactly…”

“‘Lord of the Flies.’ Niceties of life stripped away. Down to bare bones, baby. It’s beautiful. The flesh of culture and civilization burned off and blown away. Life or death and a handful of bugs. And rats. Can you top that, sweetheart? Can you top that?”

“My idea…”

“Remember, boobala, two teams of people. I’m only trying to help ya. People from all kinds of backgrounds. Each with some so-called talent. Ha, that’s a good one. All thrown together. Forced to cooperate. Strengths and weaknesses kind of thing.”


“An island. Like off the coast of Borneo. That’s important, captain. And when the members vote over who to throw out, they’re off the island forever. Losers. Wonderful and savage at the same time. Has there ever been a better TV format? Ever? So what have ya got, hot stuff? Talk to me, I’m a busy man.”

“Japan is the place. For the next phase of the pro­gram. Tokyo and…”

“Whoooa, little fella, my hand’s up. Stopping ya, so to speak. Has to be an island. Has to be. I just said it. For throwing people off of later.”

“Japan is an island, and…”

“Doubt it, sweetheart, but I’ll check. There are a lot of Oriental-looking people hanging around here. They should know.”

“Anyway, in Tokyo there are fancy international business people and their spouses all living with cost-of-living allowances, and then there are English teach­ers and columnists living on the economy paying for things with ¥5,000 notes pulled from little envelopes.”

“Rats, I don’t hear rats, poopsie. And volcanoes. Poisonous mud…”

“How about eels? And squid? Both alive and…”

“Eels and squid? Eating them? Remember, profes­sor, this has to be realistic. TV verite, so to speak. And, aside form sudden gastronomical death, where is the physical threat?”

“Earthquakes. And crowds. On the trains…”

“Earthquakes are good. Very good, baby, very good. But crowds? Are we talking crowds of the trampling-to-death-under-foot type? Can we get visuals?”

“Shinjuku Station, Shibuya Station, Tokyo Station -set up cameras in all those places.”

“I’m making notes right now, captain, making notes as we speak. But where’s the conflict? People doing dumb things in bizarre circumstances are what elevate Survivor to the sublime. We’re looking as the Sistine Chapel of show business.”

“The conflict comes from role reversals. The fancy international business people go out on the economy. They move to boarding houses outside the Yamanote Line and pay for things with ¥5,000 notes pulled from little envelopes.”

“I like it. I like it. A sudden thing. No warning kind of thing. I’m with you on this, cocky.”

“Good. And the English teachers are plopped down in Minato Ward and are forced to attend com­mittee meetings at the American Chamber of Com­merce or social gatherings at the Tokyo American Club.”

“Super. Underpinnings suddenly destroyed. Off-balance to the max. I like it, lover, I like it. Tell me more.”

“The fancies trying to figure out subway connec­tions to Nishi Nippori, eating mystery food at a counter surrounded by staring locals and explaining circumstances when the entire family mistakes a soapland for a public bath. And all that with only one of those ¥5,000 envelopes.”

“I love it. I’m blowing kisses across the desk.”

“And the English teachers, in sneakers and jeans, trying to con their way into the Club Main Dining Room after a head-banging flute recital attended by, among others, members of you-know-which Dynastic Family.”

“I’ve got it. I’ve got it. I think we’re onto something here, poopsie.” “Hmmm.”

“What’s the matter, sweetheart?” “Forget it. Forget I ever came here.” “Where are you going?” “Home. Tokyo.” “Yeah, but…”

“It’s a cheap shot. I don’t want that about my home.”


“Go find a real island.”