21 December 2009
First in an irregular series:
There are many broken things in this world, some require Modest Proposals, others Immodest Proposals, still others just need a little fixing. Survivor is one such thing that just needs a little fixing.
Here's how I'd do it.
Survivor is broken. Most seasons devolve into a battle of high school style cliques rather than 'surviving' and competing, and more often than not, the best competitors are booted by cabals of inferior players (though, given the rule structure of the game, an argument can be made that being inferior at the challenges is a sound strategy for winning the game, so it's as much the fault of the producers as it is the competitors for behaving as they do).
Here's how to make the challenges really count, and make it a true contest of wits, and skill rather than clique management.
Pare down the number of contestants to eight men, eight women, and have them all live as one 'tribe' in camp, but during competitions, have them compete as four separate gender balanced groups for each challenge, and let them pick their own teams. Each day of competition, have three different kinds of challenges, one physical, one mental, and one based on exhibiting mastery of a survival skill as a team. Every challenge would be set up to have clear results as to who came in first, second, third, and fourth. A simple scoring system of 4 points for 1st, 3 points for 2nd, 2 for 3rd, and 1 point for 4th. The team that has the most points after the three challenges get a reward for that day, and those four players become team captains for the next day's challenge, the team with the least amount of points gets exiled (the exile island thing is an interesting aspect of the game, so this allows it to be kept).
Points are won as a team each day, but during these challenge rounds, each individual survivor keeps their own points, and the top two men, and top two women become the final team captains where they get to pick the teams for the final elimination rounds.
In the finals, it's head to head, one team versus one team in a playoff format (1 seed v 4 seed, 2 seed v 3 seed, with the winning teams facing of in the final, finals). Make the reward for the winning team $2M, with the added twist of the twelve losing contestants deciding which 'winner' gets $1m, $500k, and $250k (that way there's still a jury aspect to the show, since some people like that crap for some reason).
These changes emphasize group play, while still rewarding individual excellence. It allows for cliques to develop, but any clique that relies solely on how they get along will fare poorly in the overall contest. It means all the folks who are cast get to stick around for the majority of the season, so if you have a favorite in the show, you're guaranteed to see them most of the season. Having each set of challenges made up of both physical and mental tasks means that teams must find a balance of competitors to succeed in the long run. By eliminating eliminations until the very final playoffs means that by the end of the run all that emotional and psychological crap that some folks enjoy about the show would still come to the surface, and any viewers who are turned off by seeing competitive prowess get actively punished by the other 'survivors' each season might be lured back to watching this show.
Explain to me how this wouldn't be a better show?