A `Survivor' fan is all talk on the Web

Television: Joanna Hughes has turned her passion for the show into an online job.

March 29, 2001|By Jason Borelli | Jason Borelli,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

"Survivor" begins the second half of its second season tonight, with the surviving members of the Kucha and Ogakor tribes resuming their weekly televised struggle to be the last person standing on TV's favorite "reality" show.

As always, tens of millions will be tuning in, among them Joanna Hughes of Baltimore. She, though, will be watching a bit more carefully than most "Survivor" fans. Because when the show is over, it's her job to turn the events of the evening into a tongue-in-cheek summary and critique for the popular Web site MightyBigTV.com.

Hughes, who by day is a special assistant in administration at Johns Hopkins University, also is the host of online chats and forums about the show, so she has to know her stuff. And the folks at MightyBigTV think she does.

"This is a water-cooler show that a lot of people discuss," notes Sarah Bunting, the site's co-founder. "We have a lot of traffic coming to the site because of the show. I think she puts it into perspective. People get very worked up about the show, and she brings the right attitude. Her recaps are very funny, and they also approach the material in a healthy way."

In a conversation about her job, Hughes confesses that even though it's become her business, she remains a dedicated "Survivor" fan. But don't look for her to try to get on the show herself.

"I would be kicked off the first week," she laughs. "I am a chicken. I can't walk on ice, let alone the things that they do. I'd vote myself off the first week."

After eight episodes, what do you think of "Survivor" so far?

I think it's definitely gotten more engrossing as it's gone along. When the show first started, I didn't think the characters were as interesting as [those on] the first season. As time goes on, as we get to know them, we learn that we like them a lot more or we like them a lot less. Just like last season, it's developed attachments to certain survivors and definitely dislikes to some of the others.

What have you liked so far?

I really like the Kucha team. They seem to me, for the most part, to be good-hearted people. My favorite moments are when they come from behind and win. There was a particular challenge when they were blindfolded, and they had a leader [Nick Brown] who was supposed to direct them through voice directions, and they came from behind at the last minute.

And what has been your least favorite moment?

Least favorite is what's happening now; Ogakor is doing what they have to do, the way they're voting off the Kucha members. It's a disappointing reality for the past two weeks, and I fear it will continue.

Who are some of your favorite contestants?

I love Rodger [Bingham], the older gentleman. I'd love to see him win. I think it's highly unlikely. He's either an exceptionally kind-hearted gentleman, or he's very smart and playing his character to perfection. Either way, I think he's great. I like Elisabeth [Filarski], too. She's the young woman who's his friend. They have a nice bond.

And your least favorites?

My very least favorite is Jerri [Manthey]. I feel kind of bad for what she's going to go through after the show is over, but she doesn't seem to be a nice person. I know that we only see a little snippet of these characters, so I know that maybe we're just being shown her at her very worst. But that's still bad behavior, and I don't know many people who like that. I don't like Amber [Brkich] very much either. I think she just blindly follows Jerri.

Your nicknames for the contestants are kind of a trademark. You dubbed Sean Kenniff "Idiot Seanvant," Rudy Boesch "Talking Rudy Doll," and have "Just Peachy" for grim reaper host Jeff Probst. What's the nickname you gave to Amber?

We call her "Lamber," because she blindly follows Jerri around. I really can't take credit for that. One of the posters at MightyBigTV originated that, and everybody picked it up, including me. I wish I could take credit for it, because it's a great name and it suits her very nicely.

"Survivor" has been a big success. Do you think the media has made too much of the show, though?

It's possible. The show is a huge hit. I wasn't thinking that it would be as big a deal the second time around as it was the first time. The media can play things up, but if the public doesn't want it, then I don't think the public necessarily swallows it. I think the public is ready to watch the show. They want to hate these people or love certain characters. All the media hype in the world can't play up something that people don't want to watch.

So, the big question: Who do you think will win?

I think Keith [Famie], Tina [Wesson] or Colby [Donaldson] will be the winner. As far as playing the game, I think Tina's done a pretty good job of it. She speaks her mind when she needs to, but she's sort of a quiet manipulator.

Joanna Hughes' "Survivor" summaries can be found at www.mightybigtv.com/survivor.

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