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By Hein Kaiser


Five reasons why Survivor is so popular

Not only is Survivor relatable but the producers have stayed true to the concept.

It is the game show of game shows and the king of reality. The Survivor franchise has enjoyed unprecedented success worldwide and nearing its 40th season in the US.

In South Africa, Survivor Immunity Island marks its eight installment, airing this week Thursday night on M-Net at 7.30pm. This time, the contest features one of the most breathtaking coastlines in the world, the Eastern Cape’s Wild Coast.

The Survivor series was originally based on a Swedish concept show of the same format. Robinson, formerly Expedition Robinson, was first aired in 1997 and its popularity rapidly gained US network attention. Survivor was born three years later.

In Sweden, Robinson is now in its 42nd season while the popularity of the South African incarnation continues to grow exponentially. Recently Australian streaming service 10 Play signed the upcoming season to its entertainment stable and will be broadcast Down Under on the same day as the South African broadcast.

According to Leroux Botha, creative producer and series director, Survivor Immunity Island will serve up a dish of telly that will match viewer’s expectations. However, as we have seen in recent series, the intrigue, tests of loyalty and betrayal gets more intense with every episode and, indeed, each new season.

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The show is hosted by Nico Panagio who manages and narrates the gameplay for the sixth successive season. Botha says that “in Survivor South Africa our castaways push themselves beyond their limits over 39 days to outwit, outplay and outlast and has gained international traction on the back of our relatable characters, great storylines and excellent editing.”

There are a few reasons why Survivor continues to be so popular

  • Not only is Survivor relatable but the producers have stayed true to the concept. Unlike many other reality shows where the ratings chase often skews and flattens original concepts, Survivor has never deviated from its script, so to speak.
  • Keeping it new and exciting by changing locations for every season, pushing the creative envelope with challenges and including human aspects such as loved ones visiting on set or teaming up shows like mother and daughter or other match ups that make viewing even more interesting.
  • We learn from strategy and it never gets tired. Watching the plotting and scheming and the dynamics between individuals, the backstabbing and the white lies. It is all very entertaining.
  • In contrast to some of the other, more contrived reality shows, 39 days away from family and friends, and pent up with strangers where you must fend for yourself, from food to water and anything else survival in between, solicits some very authentic displays of emotion. Great television.
  • Survivor is not about surviving the elements, although that does play a role. Social dynamics and surviving various personality types takes far more stamina from a contestant than a bit of mud or a monsoon downpour. As a bystander, it is fascinating to watch, to judge and to anticipate behaviour.

Steaming service Showmax will share seasons 6 and 7 with viewers, so watching older programmes in tandem or ahead of the new show is possible. And that is the incredible thing about the franchise, no matter that the formula has not changed much since inception.

It is, as Botha noted, relatable and the clever juxtaposition of various personality and character types not only creates new friction like clockwork, but it reveals a lot about human nature, herd and singularity mentality as well as, at times, reluctant heroes.

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