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Monday, May 12, 2003


Reality Check?

For some unknown reason last night, my wife and I tuned in the end of the final Survivor show of the season. This was the night of the big "showdown" between Matt and Jenna "I'm-so-handicapped-because-I'm-so-beautiful" Morasca. America would finally discover who would be the winner of the $1,000,000 prize.

As we were watching, just before 10 o'clock, a promo came on for the CBS Morning Show which said something like, "Tomorrow morning we'll interview Survivor Jenna, who will be making the rounds tomorrow." My wife and I looked at each other and said, "They've just given it away." Apparently we were not alone. Other viewers reported that the David Letterman Show and KDKA television in Pittsburgh also either stated or strongly suggested that Jenna would win before the "live" count of the vote aired. On top of all that, during the live segment broadcast by CBS, a graphic prematurely popped up on the screen that read, "Jenna's Family" while the camera was focused on the Survivor host, and no similar graphic appeared for Matt's family at any point in the show.

Promos for the Letterman Show stated they would have an interview with "the Survivor winner." A KDKA news promo that aired immediately following stated, "Win or lose, we'll interview Survivor Jenna tomorrow and follow her as she makes the rounds of the CBS Morning Show and the David Letterman Show." KDKA is trying to claim they gave nothing away because Jenna is from the Pittsburgh area and is attending the University of Pittsburgh, so they would be naturally interested in interviewing her. That is understandable. But it stretches credulity that they would be able to follow her to the CBS Morning News - where the winner would be given the million dollar check - and the Letterman show for the simple reason they could NOT have "followed her" if she lost because she would not have appeared on either show.

KDKA radio hosts Mike Pintek and Fred Honsberger pooh-poohed the "conspiracy" (their word), using a Clinton-esque argument that none of the promos ever actually said Jenna was the winner. Conspiracy or simple mistake, viewers were definitely given the impression Jenna was the winner, since during the promos Matt was seemingly non-existent even though he was theoretically still in the running.

All that aside, I find the entire "Survivor" concept a sad commentary on American television and American society in general. The Survivor producer was one of the producers of the Real World MTV cable series, itself known for playing fast and loose with reality. Survivor involves about as much in the way of "survival" skills as an overnight camping trip, and the entire game is a weekly re-run of the MTV "Real World" kick-the-jerk-out-of-the-house episode with the occasional sprinkling of Fear Factor type immunity challenges (God help us if they ever try karaoke for immunity and borrow Simon from American Idol).

Most revealing on last night's show were the comments made by the Survivor "jury" as they questioned the final two contestants. One juror actually told one of the contestants, "I appreciate your honesty that you said you lied and were deceitful during the game." Only on American television can you be a selfish, lying, deceitful, back-stabbing jerk - as every single Survivor winner must be in order to prevail - and get paid a million dollars for your efforts. What kind of message is that sending to the young people of America? Put yourself first, lie, deceive, and break your word and you'll be rewarded. Work hard, be loyal and honest and you'll get the shaft. Why are we so surprised at scandals such as Enron when Hollywood and the media celebrate deceit and skullduggery on shows such as Survivor?

"Today's report confirms that, despite White House scare tactics, Social Security remains sound for decades to come.."

-? Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (NV) upon hearing reports that the Social Security and Medicare Trust Funds will go bankrupt even earlier than predicted.

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