Watch the weasel lie about grandma on this 'Survivor'

Critics' Picks : New Dvds

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February 05, 2006|By DAVID ZURAWIK

SURVIVOR: PEARL ISLANDS PANAMA / / Paramount Home Entertainment / $54.99

The seventh season of the series that vaulted CBS to first place in prime-time ratings and launched an avalanche of reality TV arrives Tuesday in DVD. It wasn't Survivor's greatest season -- which is to say no one got quite as naked or became as detestable as Richard Hatch in season one -- but Pearl Island Panama had its moments.

For those not familiar with the series, Survivor features 16 contestants in the wild -- often an island -- competing for a $1 million prize. Contestants are eliminated each week by a vote of their peers until just one is left -- America's newest millionaire. Sounds simple, but within weeks of its debut in the summer of 2000, it changed the face of prime-time network television -- for better or worse.

Part office politics, and part Lord of the Flies, the series spoke to some of the more primitive parts of viewers' brains. That's not an insult if you believe in psychiatrist Carl Jung's notion of the collective unconscious -- a kind of shared ancestral past that shapes our thoughts and actions more than we know. Remember the slaughtered pig in Survivor: Vanuatu -- Islands of Fire, and the way tribe members smeared their faces and bodies with the blood of the dead animal? That's the stuff of which memories are made in the collective unconscious.

Pearl Island Panama didn't have any moments quite as dark as that, but Jon Dalton, a.k.a. Johnny Fairplay, certainly earned a spot among the all-time Survivor villain-weasels when he lied about his grandmother being dead during a Reward Challenge (Rupert Boneham, the big guy with the beard, fell for it). A week later, Dalton worked his wickedness on two of the female contestants, promising both that they would wind up with him in the finals. He's lucky he didn't wind up like the pig.

l Special features: The nifty package of extras includes cast commentary from Dalton about the episode in which he lied about grandma. Boneham also comments. Serious fans of the series will probably most enjoy the 16 pre-island interviews in which the contestants talk about their expectations for the adventure and lay out the strategy they intend to pursue in hopes of being the last one standing.

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MOONLIGHTING: SEASON THREE / / Lions Gate / $39.98

Cybill Shepherd and Bruce Willis -- as Maddie Hayes and David Addison -- did romantic farce and screwball comedy as well as it has ever been done on television in this madcap series. This is the season with "Atomic Shakespeare," an unforgettable parody of The Taming of the Shrew, and "I Am Curious ... Maddie," the episode that finally brought relief to the exquisite sexual tension between these two.

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[DAVID ZURAWIK]

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david.zurawik@baltsun.com

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