For a show that purportedly explores value and class, “Survival of the Richest” displays a remarkable lack of both. Latest reality entry from the WB presents itself as a social experiment, pitting hard-working blue-collar kids in debt up to their eyeballs against spoiled heiresses and playboys who’ve never clipped their miniature dog’s toenails. In theory, show evokes the base appeal of realty TV — to watch the deserving be generously rewarded or revel while the unworthy get their comeuppance. “Survival” tries to do it all at once and comes up short on both counts.
Gist of the game, as host Hal Sparks explains, is for the rich to learn what it means to actually work for a living, while those less well off get a chance for some big cash.
Over six episodes, seven wealthy kids, worth a cool $3 billion combined, are paired off with an equal number of blue-collar kids with a collective debt of $150,000. The challenges, beyond finding a way to coexist peacefully in a huge mansion, consist of hard-labor gigs such as waiting tables at Medieval Times and cleaning public bathrooms.
Each week, one team is eliminated until the last pair remains and is rewarded with $100,000 each. Obviously, the inherent problem here is motivation. When told of the “prize,” Dutch aristocrat Hunter scoffs, “That’s dinner.”
Everyone appears far too prepared to play a part, and any self-realization comes far too fast without any real transformation. Either producers picked a bunch of duds to participate or else the editing team was so hopped up on caffeine they cut out the juicy parts.
A few brief moments of actual humanity seep in from, of all people, Kat, the sullen daughter of Rev. Sun Myung Moon. Despite boasting a fortune of roughly $989 million, she’s surprisingly grounded and sensitive. Naturally, the other rich kids hate her. Similarly, Sam the Afghani princess has some sweet moments with her partner Jacob, the redneck fighting to pay back $35,000 in debt, but again, these moments are too few.
Tech credits, for the most part, are polished, although the overzealous music only emphasizes the lack of drama. As host, Sparks looks awkward, due more to his Jimmy Neutron hairdo than to acknowledgement of the series’ shortcomings.