IM this article to a friend!

January 15, 2003

Ready for some more `Survivor'?

From: Akron Beacon Journal, OH - 15 Jan 2003

It's a jungle out there -- Amazon, in fact -- and it's boy tribe vs. girl tribe
By R.D. Heldenfels

HOLLYWOOD - Every time you turn around, there's another reality show on the air, suggesting that viewers and networks still haven't gotten enough of the form.

But a couple of people who have been enriched by the reality boom are keeping other options open.

Mark Burnett, the producing mastermind on Survivor and the series' host, Jeff Probst, are together and separately looking at scripted shows.

Together they are working on ``a sitcom, basically,'' Probst said, although he was vague on the particulars -- other than to concede that it's set in the world of reality shows.

``It's a long way from ready to talk about,'' said Probst, who was surprised that Burnett had mentioned it to reporters. ``But it's a fertile ground,'' he said. ``We have good stories, and some insight, and we're hooked up with a good writer.''

Burnett on his own is working with comedy powerhouse Carsey-Werner-Mandabach on a WB sitcom called Are We There Yet? In it, a middle-aged man, his two children from an old marriage and his fiancee travel around Europe, where the series will be shot.

``It's a great new adventure for me,'' said Burnett, adding later that ``I like to live on the edge.''

Probst said he worries every season that the audience will have had enough of Survivor.

``But Mark never does,'' Probst added. And when asked if he was hedging his bets against a reality collapse, Burnett simply said, ``Reality is bigger than ever.''

After all, he and Probst talked to reporters at a press conference and a reception afterward to promote their latest series, Survivor: The Amazon, which begins Feb. 13 on CBS.

And Burnett will try out some new things to draw viewers.

For starters, Amazon will be a real battle of the sexes, dividing the tribes along gender lines.

Given the alliances that can form in the show's tribes, Burnett said, ``It's a huge risk.... I could end up with final six or seven (players) all men or all women. All women wouldn't be so bad, but all men would be, I think, awful for the ratings.''

Just in case anyone thinks the show will be a mismatch, Burnett showed reporters a clip from one early -- and very complicated -- challenge in which the men charged out to an early lead but the women gradually caught up.

The structure did make a difference in how people played.

``There are two girls for sure on the women's tribe in The Amazon who were anticipating walking around in very small bikinis and utilizing that,'' Probst said. Finding out that their tribe was all women ``was absolutely a re-strategy time for them.''

Probst also thought that with the sexes separated, ``the sexual tension kept building and building and building. And when they did get together, or when they would see each other at challenges... it was like a mixer.''

Another notable change in Survivor: The Amazon is the inclusion of a deaf contestant, Christy Smith, 24, of Basalt, Colo. (According to CBS, ``she can hear minimal sounds but relies on lip-reading skills.'')

``Think of the things that go on in this game, and what a disadvantage that is,'' Probst said. ``And we didn't tell anybody that she was deaf. That was up to her.''

``The big thing with Christy is, don't show any favoritism,'' Probst said later. ``We didn't,'' although he did note that during tribal councils, when it was hard for Smith to read lips, he would either paraphrase or repeat things for her.

Probst also caught differences in his performance.

``It screwed me up out there,'' he said. ``I found myself forgetting to look at other people'' and he would try to move his mouth clearly for Smith. ``Afterwards, I'd go, `I think I talked like a 6-year-old through that whole challenge.' ''

While strategies for Smith might be different than for other players, there are always differing approaches within the group.

In The Amazon, Rob Cesterino, 24, a computer projects coordinator, ``definitely knows the game better than anyone who's ever played it,'' Probst said. ``He's telling me rules....

``But to contrast him, we had Matthew (Von Ertfelda, 33), who has been to all kinds of jungles all over the world... and yet he didn't know anything about how to play Survivor.''

© 2001 ohio and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.