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with Bud Buck, 6/23/00

Dc: This is DCR, a news program not to be believed. The latest big show on TV is "Survivor," a so-called "reality" show where contestants on an island are forced to co-operate for survival and at the same time compete against each other for the ultimate prize, one million dollars. The show has proven to be enormously popular, for reasons that are both mysterious and troubling. Bud Buck reports …

(sfx: surf)

Bud: An inviting scene … a beach, dazzling blue water … sea gulls, a lush tropical canopy beckons mere yards away … how wonderful it would be to be stranded here, away from the pressures of the frenzied modern life and a technological society that chafes our humanity and tears at our spirits.

(sfx: gull)

Yes, this is a place of uncomplicated beauty … until …
… a crowd of preening, self absorbed strangers shows up, followed by network producers and camera crews. Welcome technology to the unspoiled wilderness! Survivor has landed!
And the TV audience loves it. But why?
The answer is: We have no idea. But Survivor is really hot right now, so that's enough, on a slow news week, to justify sending me to the beach for a popular kind of news report we in the business call a "thumbsucker."
We give the impression that we're working out an answer to a difficult question, when in fact all we do is collect some conflicting viewpoints from belligerent experts and call it a day.
And there are plenty of experts ready to offer up an opinion of the twisted psychology of "Survivor."
Experts like Meredith Bromide, a social psychologist at Pandering College. Dr. Bromide, thanks for coming here and for wearing your bathing suit, as I requested.

Meredith: One sometimes sacrifices a bit of dignity for status, especially when dealing with the media.

Bud: What do you think the unqualified success of "Survivor" teaches us?

Meredith : Survivor fulfills a longing people have to separate themselves from the meaningless drudgery of their daily lives. It is ... in a sense .. a journey back to the natal state. An embracing of the primal self, a return to nature, an affirmation of life, and a rejection of stress. I rather like it.

Bud: (q) But … isn't this scenario more stressful than real life? Eating rats and bugs and being watched by millions? And then being booted off the island, one by one?

Meredith : Yes, it's highly stressful for the people on the island. But we, as viewers, understand that we are not on the island and are not members of that society. So it's not stressful for us. It's quite good therapy, I think.

Bud: Good therapy to watch people's hopes being dashed?

Meredith: To see them suffer, yes. To have them be banished and humiliated. It is a reminder to me that at least I am NOT that pathetic. And that's a real self esteem boost.

Bud: Also here on the beach with me to discuss the weird success of the TV show Survivor is interpersonal relations consultant and business communications trainer Arnie Gladly.
Mr. Gladly, I'll ask you the same question. What does the success of "Survivor" teach us?

Arnie: It teaches us that Dr. Bromide is an ignorant blowhard who shouldn't be taken seriously.

Bud: Well!

Meredith: No sense going tribal with me, Mr. Gladly.

Arnie: Someone had to say it.

Meredith: Being "alpha male" does not put you at the head of the line here.

Arnie: Maybe not, but you've missed the point entirely. The show has NO redeeming qualities. It is a menace.

Meredith: That's a simplistic overreaction.

Arnie: The model is a ritual sacrifice. Survivor is what we do in place of throwing people to the lions or having televised executions.
If it's allowed to continue, this program will destroy civilization.
Ironic that you have to go to a deserted island to do that, but there you are.

Bud: Let's get one more voice in here. TV critic Sarah Scofflaw joins us.
Ms. Scofflaw, what does Survivor teach us?

Sarah: That a lot of people take themselves and their media too seriously.

Arnie: Speak for yourself. It is a creation of the devil!

Meredith: This program will save lives!

Sarah: This is just a television show. That's all! And it's really nothing new. It's all been done before!

Bud: Not on American TV!

Sarah: Sure it has. Survivor melds the forced camaraderie of Friends, the insincerity of a soap opera, the desperation of a game show, the posturing and put downs of professional wrestling, the disappointing predictability of the news, and the wet bathing suits of Baywatch.

Bud: Wow.

Sarah: That's a lot of tired old program formulas, all rolled into one, which, in theory, will make room for some other NEW things in the schedule.

Bud: Do you think that will really happen?

Sarah: Not in my lifetime, or yours.

Bud: And so … these experts couldn't be more varied in how they view Survivor, the latest ratings phenomenon.

Experts: (arguing)

Bud: The question remains, then, after weeks of tension and drama, stress and high ratings, what does the success of Survivor teach us?

(sfx: pandemonium and fighting)

Bud: (vo) I believe it teaches us that Jerry Springer had it right all along. Take a hand full of sad people eating bad food, add intense pressure and a few folding chairs, remove some of their clothes, and you've got a sure formula for ratings success! Guaranteed!
And that means … aside from one lucky castaway … the most certain Survivor of this development will be the so-called "reality" genre of TV programming where viewers are the program AND the product.
This is Bud Buck!

(off mic, egging them on) Yeah! Right! I don't think you're making your point …why don't you knock him down and make him cry uncle! Yeah! That's it! Use your arms?! Throw sand in his face! Come on!

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