Editor's note: Far from an ideal ending, but an eminently watchable episode of Survivor, for the fourth straight week. See what happens when the people who are left get to talk about the game and the conditions, rather than superfluous scripted fluff? (Although, to be fair, Phillip has been refreshingly good at Ponderosa.) Not only that, but it scored Survivor its top ratings of the season, and brought it into a tie with American Idol. So how will CBS capitalize on this newfound success? For some possible answers to this question, we turn this week's recap over to TV Consultant D, for further insights.
This week's guest voice: TV Consultant D.
Okay, so we've gotten ourselves a good foothold in the key demos, and Idol is falling. How are you going to build on this, going forward? I know, I know, you have no idea. That's why you're listening to me. Here we go:
I really liked what you did with the food this week. Watching people starve, and cry about starving (as much as everyone loves televised tears), isn't all that entertaining. The average audience member is sitting at home, Doritos® bag in hand, saying "Yeah, boo-hoo. I'd like to lose a few pounds, too, you whiners. Get back to the throwing beanbags, or whatnot." It's not relatable. But having them smear peanut butter all over their bodies, then slowly wipe it off and collect it for later consumption back at their camp? Who hasn't done that at least two or three times, this week alone? I'll bet peanut butter sales skyrocketed among people watching your show after that. Or at least people going to the their local supermarket, opening a jar, smearing it on their hands and/or face, then casually trying to exit the store.
But I also think we can take this further. You do need to keep the contestants hungry, since it keeps them cranky, which makes for the kind of drama everyone loves. But rather than just giving (or "selling") them food, I think you should incorporate more food-like products into our competitions. Instead of building a stack of wooden cards, why not have them build a stack of Pop-Tarts®? They have almost as much structural integrity, and they come in a rainbow of exciting colors, like something called "Wildlicious® Wild! Berry." You can tell it's extra good, because it has two wilds, a marketing department portmanteau, an exclamation point, and a registered trademark right there in its name. With that kind of delectable lure, a contestant is sure to say "Screw it, I'm eating!" in the middle of the challenge, and torpedo their game for a mouthful of pastry-esque and fruit-like substances. I mean, sure, we may need to have extra medical staff on hand, but that would be something the audience could identify with, right? Or, if people are tired of challenges in which people toss beanbags, maybe we should substitute some succulent meatballs? There's so much to work with here. Although I'd prefer you use the products I've mentioned, which by sheer coincidence also happen to be my clients.
Let's face it: It's boring to watch people sitting around camp, talking about sitting around camp, or worse yet, voting people out. If I wanted to watch that, I'd go to a campground. There are only so many times you can watch someone lay on bamboo, gather wood, or boil water, or clean a pot. Here's how to fix that: Add in some cartoon characters. Just pretend they come with the camp, like the wild chickens and tarsiers. As great as it was to have Phillip coming up with hilarious nicknames and recounting his rec league basketball exploits every week, or to have Brandon threatening to piss in the beans, realistically you can't have them on every season. (Can you?)
Since your network is owned by Viacom, you should have access to a treasure trove of characters from other Viacom shows, such as those on MTV (hello, Snooki!) and Nickelodeon (hello... uh, that Fred guy?). You no longer need to cast mute pageant queens who look good in bikinis and are voted out quickly, we can just CGI in some drunk floozy from The Real World, and use them to fill whatever dead time you have that episode. Win-win. Or better yet, use them to enhance the scenes you already have. Do you really want to entrust the drama of Malcolm and Eddie handing over two idols to the contestants, editors, and music? Or would you rather punch it up with Mordecai and Rigby yelling "Oooooohhhh!!!"? I mean, come on.
Rigging the game to save treasured players
Now let's be frank here, everyone knows you already do this. Just last week, when Malcolm needed an extra idol to pull off a flashy move at tribal council, one magically appeared, right when he started looking! But then this week, you pull the rug out from under your entire female audience, and just tantalize him, instead. Yes, there's another idol available, and he wisely pays big money to gain access to it, but... ha ha! Now it will take the entire CSI team to decipher the clue in the first place, and then an army of excavators to dig it up! And Malcolm only got to see the clue for a minute! But wait, there's still hope when that doesn't work: this must finally be the episode where you guys have a puzzle challenge for immunity, since Malcolm proved last season that puzzles were child's play for him. But... nope. It's just a rehash of an endurance challenge from the last season where "hidden" idols were so easy to obtain that even a small, troll-like creature could find them. And the challenge was holding up sticks? Pretty weak, bro.
Your audience needs consistency in who the favored players are! You can't have them invest 1.5 seasonsinto rooting for a character, only to have that faith yanked about like a yo-yo. Unless... wait, were you guys trying to save someone else? Well then, never mind. All the same, and I know it goes against precedent, but you really should consider just putting Malcolm on every season. He was the chosen one! It was said he would destroy the bros, not join them! Bring balance to the forces of superfans, challenge beasts, and strategic gamebots, not leave them in darkness! Oh wait, I see what you did there, with the title. But still: every season. Who's going to complain? Ah, well. There's a bro down. To the end, we go.
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Recaps and commentary
Exit interviews - Malcolm Freberg