The TV show, not the rock band. (Although I shudder to think about a world without “Eye of the Tiger.” But that’s a different column for a different day.)
It’s almost like the 2000s didn’t happen, right?
If the 1980s were all about action hours, nighttime soap operas and family sitcoms, and the 1990s were based in adult relationship comedies and realistic, gritty dramas, then the 2000s were all about.. well, you. And me. And your neighbors. And that guy who bags your groceries at Trader Joes.
The reality TV decade began with the uber success of game show “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” in late 1999, but really took off ten years ago this week. That’s when “Survivor” first hit the airwaves, and soon made it OK to catch, roast and eat a rat on national TV.
Ten years later, we all still remember watching reality TV’s original villain, Richard Hatch, take home a cool $1 million in tax-free winnings. (Oops, scratch that “tax-free” part. Sorry, Richard.) And we can all still recall Sue Hawk’s famous “snake” speech. Sorry, Damon and Carlton, but that’s how you end a series about a group of crazy folks stranded on a tropical island.
You may remember back to 2000, CBS’ “Big Brother” was supposed to be the big, game-changing reality TV hit that summer. “Big Brother” has done just fine for itself, but “Survivor” was the show that spawned an entire industry. And a lot more.
After all, if it wasn’t for “Survivor,” we wouldn’t even have “Lost” — which was created when former ABC Entertainment chairman Lloyd Braun decided he wanted to develop a scripted version of the hit.
We wouldn’t have Elisabeth Hasselback on “The View.” Thanks, “Survivor.” Thanks a lot for that one.
No “Survivor”? No “The Apprentice.” Which means Donald Trump would still be mostly known for the hair. Instead, he’s known for the hair, AS SEEN ON THE TOP-RATED TV SHOW ON NBC SUNDAY NIGHTS.
No “Survivor”? Let me remind you of CBS’ Thursday night lineup in fall 2000: “48 Hours,” “City of Angels” and “Diagnosis Murder.” Seriously, CBS’ median age would be 74 this year. Instead of three “CSI” series, the Eye would be running “Diagnosis Murder: Tallahassee” and “Diagnosis Murder: Tucson.”
No “Survivor”? We wouldn’t have multiple reality series starring Boston Rob. Again, thanks. Thanks so much for that.
And of course, without “Survivor,” you wouldn’t have the modern product placement. This sentence, for example, is integrated with an advertising message so effortlessly that I bet you didn’t even notice, much like Verizon users probably don’t notice how complete their 3G coverage is compared to AT&T. Verizon.
You might not like the reality TV onslaught that came in the wake of “Survivor” — particularly if you work in the scripted TV business. But you’ve got to respect the power of the show, and how it helped change the face of primetime.
And ten years after the show’s May 31, 2000 launch, “Survivor” is still, well, a survivor. The show’s most recent all-star edition (and by the way, we’re living in a world where “Survivor” alums can be considered “all-stars”) did very well for the Eye. The show is losing its long-time Thursday perch so that CBS can finally get into the comedy biz on the night — but “Survivor” is expected to give the network some juice on Wednesdays at 8 p.m., a slot that could use an immunity idol.
So we salute you, “Survivor,” on your tenth anniversary. And for keeping Jeff Probst gainfully employed for all of these years. (Wichita’s missing out on what might have been a solid “Kansas This Morning” co-anchor, but them’s the breaks.) The Nielsen tribe has spoken.