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Survivor TV show-

This show, far from being “new,” puts on display some of the most traditional of American values. In an unexpected manner, this show dramatizes the US’s special habits of indoor and outdoor space and privacy. The people “marooned” on this isle went outdoors to live on an island for-not community life but intense individual competition: in a backhanded way, privacy. An equivalent or corresponding show mounted in Britain and now running takes place indoors: and the British and the rest of the world goes indoors for privacy and outdoors for communal life. It is paradoxically “reality TV.” 

In typical American fashion, the game is structured as an elimination contest with a winner and losers. It combines trial by ordeal (the various little contests set by the organizers such as holding on to a pole for hours on end, or eating rodents) with the ambience of a soap opera show. All of the ordeals/tests, though, were set by the organizers, not provided by natural circumstance (as figures that ignore the natural ground). Given this circumstance, the “show” was rigged to simulate the more familiar game show, so that there were clusters of tests to be passed or ordeals to be endured for the TV audience’s week-by-week delectation and mock horror. Throughout, the television ground remained invisible, consisting of camera crew and production facilities and personnel, and editing, theme music, etc. Equally invisible and yet a major factor in the show, was the audience. Only the host / interviewer appeared conspicuously and yet even he didn’t seem out of place, although he was not himself a castaway. So the program appropriated many of the conventions and cliches of the game show, while the on-screen participants agreed to treat the entire exercise as an exercise in endurance. 

Another notable feature of the entire setting and scene was the manner in which it relied on the old four elements to provide structure and tension: earth (sand), air, fire, water. The show also emphasized sentimentalism by drawing out each mood and isolating emotions and feelings one at a time to play them up for the audience: the inner drama played out upon the outer beach and primal isle. No genuine headhunters or real calamities were all owed to obtrude on the idyll. Often, such things would have provided a welcome taste of reality. Throughout, the emphasis was on process-a technique for engendering audience involvement: the process of endurance: the process of elimination, the process of secrecy, the process of skullduggery.

E. McLuhan

Survivor Tetrad