CBS to try to keep Super Bowl fans

`Survivor': Official says network will use game to shamelessly promote next installment of reality TV show.

January 10, 2001|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,Sun Television Critic

LOS ANGELES - If anyone still is wondering whether reality television is here to stay, here's the answer - CBS will air "Survivor 3" and "Survivor 4" in 2001 and 2002.

As for "Survivor: The Australian Outback," which debuts Jan. 28 following the Super Bowl, football fans be warned: CBS says it's not going to be shy about using the contest as a promotional launching pad for what is expected to be the largest post-game audience in television history. (One-hundred thirty million viewers are expected to tune in the game, the greatest number ever for a single program.)

"Survivor 3 and 4 is official," Les Moonves, the president and chief executive officer of CBS said yesterday during a news conference that was part of the Winter Press Tour. "We have come to an agreement with producer Mark Burnett [creator of the show], and everybody's happy. Hopefully, in the near future, we'll be announcing Survivor 19 and 20."

Despite a report in yesterday's Wall Street Journal that ad sales for the Super Bowl were running behind CBS projections, Moonves said the combination of the game and "Survivor: The Australian Outback" will make Super Bowl Sunday "the highest-grossing day in television history."

When asked how much the game will be used by CBS to promote "Survivor," Moonves replied, "Do you think Richard Hatch kicking off would be too much?" (He was referring to the million-dollar-winner of the first "Survivor.")

"There will be a couple of the Survivor 1 people at the game, and I'm sure we may cut to them once or twice," he said, chuckling at the understatement of how many times the cameras are likely to show the contestants of the first "Survivor" to remind fans of the post-game show. He added that commentators Phil Simms and Greg Gumbel also will mention some of the previous contestants.

Moonves characterized the new group of 16 survivors as being much like the first group, though, slightly younger and possibly sexier.

"I know there has been a lot of commentary saying, `Gee, are they better looking than the last group?' I thought the last group was pretty good looking," he said. "Everybody's also seeing, `Gee, they're a lot younger.' The truth is the average age of this group is 33, and the average age of the first group was 35, so it's not much different.

"I think we do have some characters who are more interesting, with maybe a little bit more sex appeal. But, you know, we think it's a great group just like the first one."

The men include: a 53-year-old farmer from Kentucky, a 23-year-old Harvard Law student, a 40-year-old chef from Michigan, a 32-year-old Army Intelligence officer, and a 23-year-old singer from South Dakota.

Among the women are: a 22-year-old recent college graduate from Pennsylvania, a 32-year-old personal trainer from New York City, a 45-year-old corrections officer from New Hampshire, a 30-year-old bartender/aspiring actress, and Maralyn Hershey, 51, a former District of Columbia police inspector who recently was profiled in The Sun.

Jeff Probst, the much-mocked host of both "Survivor" shows, said:

"The difference between this cast vs. the last cast is that, whereas the first group were virgins, everybody here came to play. Richard Hatch would get eaten alive by this group. I mean, everybody came into this like a head football coach; they had strategies for every single situation." Burnett agreed that the Australian group was savvier at playing the game because they had seen the first "Survivor" last summer.

"Richard's strategy only worked because other people were asleep at the wheel," Burnett said during an earlier news conference later in the day. "Now, nobody's asleep."

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