HERC Spends The Night With SURVIVOR Boys Hatch, Probst & Burnett
That’s right: Herc spent Tuesday night with “Survivor’s” Mark Burnett, Jeff Probst, and Richard Hatch!
Why? How? The occasion was the big closing night of the Museum of Television and Radio’s 18th annual William S. Paley Television Festival at the Director’s Guild Theatre in Los Angeles. The fest screened the very first season-one “Survivor” episode from last summer, then launched into some fascinating Q&A.
What follows is my version of the highlights. If you were there, please feel free to elaborate or correct any inaccuracies in talkback. (The museum, by the way, keeps tapes of these seminars - which can eventually be viewed for far less money than the cost of a Paley ticket.) Also forgive please if I’m just repeating material from Burnett’s books; I’ve not read them. Let me also acknowledge that a lot of this material is strictly for hard-core fans - of which I know there are many!
1) Jeff Probst remembered that he was out of work for two years when he heard series creator Mark Burnett describing “Survivor” on the radio. Probst said that when he finally wrangled a meeting with Burnett, the producer spent an hour and 45 minutes explaining to Probst why Probst didn’t want the job.
2) Burnett said the first place he pitched “Survivor” was to The Discovery Channel.
3) Hatch related that he first heard about “Survivor” when his mom called him and said, “CBS is putting together a show just for you.” He said a friend soon thereafter said almost exactly the same thing.
4) Probst said one of the reasons he got his job was his behavior while doing a bizarre live interview with Sandra Bullock. When the Sandy and her interviewer began flirting by unbuttoning each other’s tops, Burnett somehow saw Probst’s potential for grace under pressure.
5) The South Pacific version of the show lasted 39 days, but the Outback version went on for 42, according to Burnett. There’s surely a reason, but it was not discussed that evening.
6) When asked if he’s looking for "types" when casting, Burnett said that he’s interested in assembling 16 A-type outdoor types/adventure seekers who all want to be leaders. He later added that “relatability” was also important. “I want the audience to think, ‘I know someone like that.’”
7) Probst mentioned that tribal councils not only provide an end to each week’s story, they are useful for filling in the blanks of all the storylines. He also mentioned how important he thought the show’s catch-phrases – “Fire represents life,” “The tribe has spoken,” “It’s time for you to go” – are to the success of “Survivor.” Probst said “Temptation Island” is a somewhat weaker show, in part, because it lacked this “tribal and ritualistic” vocabulary.
8) Probst and Burnett remembered Hatch’s eye-rolling when Probst started in for the first time with the “fire represents life” stuff. “I thought I was going to puke,” admitted Hatch. “But it grew on me; you begin to buy into it.”
9) Burnett agreed, noting it was important to do things in an “overly dramatic way” and cited the weekly fire-snuffing as an example of this.
10) Probst did admit, however, that he enjoyed “Temptation Island” – especially “the one with the braids.”
11) Burnett mentioned he’s always harbored an interest in the messianic: “Hitler and how to control other people.”
12) Burnett related that one of the hardest decisions he had to make was whether or not to include Hatch’s cocky first-episode sound bite about having already won the million dollars.
13) Burnett remembered a camera operator radioing in to him on day one. “We have gold dust!” cried the operator. “You have to see this big fat gay guy sitting in a tree! If they lose immunity, he’s the first to go!”
14) Burnett pointed out that Hatch exhibited a trait common to intelligent, successful people: adaptability. He pointed out that Hatch was quick to realize his corporate approach wasn’t accomplishing anything and quickly switched to a strategy of alliance-building.
15) Hatch said the question he gets asked the most is “What is it like with the camera crew around all the time?” “They were like trees,” insisted Hatch. “They never talked to us.”
16) Probst said he remembers where he was sitting when he heard about Michael’s horrific burn accident. “Holy shit!” Probst remembers saying. “That’s going to be good! I hope he’s okay, but that’s going to be good!”
17) Burnett quickly offered his own more politic reaction: “I was extremely concerned. I wish it never happened.”
18) Burnett said those voted off are given all kinds of incentives NOT to return home early, but admitted, “They’re all American citizens; we can’t keep them there if they’re determined to go home.” He revealed that Sonya, BB, Gretchen and Dirk all returned to the States early, but the entire cast of “Survivor II” was persuaded to stick around. “BB was spotted at home,” remembered Burnett, “which made my life much more difficult.”
19) As big a hit as “Survivor I” was against summer reruns, Burnett pointed out that “Survivor II’s” ratings are far greater.
20) Burnett confirmed that the location of “Survivor” would continue to change with each season. “That new location each year is important.”
21) Hatch said his cast never found out how the production crew was living. Did they have any inkling? “None,” said Hatch. “We had no idea where they were or what it was like where they were.”
22) Probst and Burnett confirmed that the production crew lives in 230 identical tents. Probst and Burnett’s tents are next to each other, and no tent is larger than any other. Burnett said there is no lodging hierarchy. “My camera crews would kill me if I suddenly got a bigger tent,” said Burnett. “They wouldn’t bust their asses every day if they thought we went Hollywood.”
23) Someone asked about what Hatch’s nudity was all about. HATCH: It was the South China Sea, it was 110 degrees… PROBST: Bullshit! It was strategy! HATCH (smiling): Maybe it was… No, I never thought, ‘Let’s get naked so I can win.’”
24) “Greg Buis was screwing with us all the time,” remembers Burnett. “The tribal councils were always being interrupted with these crazy pirate laughs.” Burnett relates that Buis became much better behaved after he was reminded of who controlled the edit bays.
25) Burnett revealed that “Surivor” is not subject to the whims of CBS’s standards & practices department, and implied that all censorship is purely self-imposed. “We’re sensible,” said Burnett. “We know there’s parents, children and grandparents watching.”
26) Someone asked about the logistics of getting Sean Kenniff’s dad on that luxury yacht one day after Sean won his challenge. Burnett revealed that the logistics involved doing a lot of math. In order to make it work, the challenge had to be held at 7:30 a.m. California time. Eight loved ones – one for each contestant – had to be waiting at Los Angeles International Airport with tickets in their hands. Seven of the loved ones, of course, had to be sent home, but, as consolation, they were allowed to send CARE packages with Sean’s pop. Mr. Kenniff was loaded onto the Sean’s boat only moments before he surprised Sean on the bridge. Sean’s shipboard massage was extended as various boats rushed desperately to rendezvous in the dark.
27) According to Burnett, the bar where Kelly Wiglesworth shared a Budweiser with Probst did not exist three hours before Kelly got there! The original challenge reward was going to be a single beer, said Burnett, but it was decided at the last minute that this was too lame a reward after all the far more fabulous prizes handed out earlier. The addition of Probst as Kelly’s date, a screening of the first ten minutes of the first episode, and the entire Malaysian bar (frantically created by show production designers) were improvised. Kelly was blindfolded and led to believe the bar was on another island. Only at the wrap party (held at the same locale) did she realize she never left Pulau Tiga.
28) It was hinted that a contestant mutiny was contemplated at some point during “Survivor II.” Burnett indicated that avoiding this eventuality depended on establishing that “our word is law.” “It’s all about keeping them off balance all the time. You can’t blink. If you’re a producer, the minute you back down it’s over.”
29) Why isn’t there more mugging for the cameras? Said Burnett: “The contestants are too focused on dominating the group.”
30) Burnett was struck by the differences between the two Outback tribes. “Kucha was much more industrious,” he noted. “They would be catching 15 or 16 fish a day. Ogakor would spend the day sunbathing, then wonder why they’re hungry.”
31) Burnett revealed that he and BB (another hugely wealthy guy) went on to become good friends, and that BB now greatly regrets encouraging his tribe to expel him from the first series. “He realized it was the wrong thing to do and at the eleventh hour changed his mind. But it was too late.”
32) Burnett was asked why he cut conversations about “Survivor I” from “Survivor II.” “It didn’t interest me, the discussions of Rich’s strategies and so on,” said Burnett. Eventually he told the “Survivor II” cast, “‘Talk as much as you like about Richard and Sue, but know that’s less time you’ll be on TV.’ And it was never mentioned again.”
33) When asked about “Survivor” compensation, Burnett said that the first to be voted off receives $2,500 and the runner-up receives $100,000. “The longer you survive, the more you get,” he said, without getting more specific.
34) Burnett said everyone wants back in. “All of them – well, maybe not Stacy [the season-one lawyer contestant who recently filed suit against Burnett] – say they’d like to do it again.”
35) An audience member brought up a challenge that never aired in which contestants guessed who lost the most weight. Burnett indicated that the occasional non-immunity challenge is edited out when the “reality stuff is too good.”
36) Burnett revealed that there WAS a (ceremonial) tribal council for the episode in which Michael was burned, but it never aired. “Once we put it into the show, we realized it cut into the drama.” That week’s immunity CHALLENGE, however, was deemed pointless, and Burnett did consult with all remaining tribe members to make sure it was acceptable to count Michael’s abrupt departure as a vote-off. (All agreed. None, apparently, wanted to risk being the contestant voted off in Michael’s place).
37) Floods are coming. Burnett mentioned that there were evacuation contingency plans if the fires ever game to close to any of the camps, and the same was true if flooding posed a threat. “But we haven’t gotten to that part yet,” smiled the producer.
38) Burnett said when he hired Probst, he realized he wanted someone “who could be a host, but was a producer in his brain.” Probst revealed that Burnett gives him advice but also an enormous amount of freedom when leading the pre-vote discussions. Probst may also be a de facto “Survivor” producer; he is said to spend an enormous amount of time in the editing bays when he’s not on camera.
39) Burnett said he’s worked on at least one show (“Eco-Challenge” I think) where there WERE fatal accidents. He said the closest anyone came to dying on “Survivor” was when Hatch famously (and ill-advisedly) grabbed a deadly snake by the tail and whipped it away. “Had that snake bit him,” said Burnett, “he wouldn’t be sitting here now.”
40) An audience member made reference to a recent Letterman sketch in which Dave chose a Lamborghini as his “Survivor” “luxury item.” Burnett indicated that “luxury items” had “to be transportable, and not a survival item like a knife.” Burnett also said “almost every” contestant’s first-choice luxury item has been approved.
41) Burnett said sometimes contestants DO pull fast ones with their luxury items. He said he would not have allowed Colby to bring his Texas flag had he known it was large enough to be used as a shelter.
42) Those glasses BB used to start a fire were NOT real prescription eyeglasses, according to Burnett. BB’s spectacles were actually magnifying glasses fashioned to look like eyeglasses. “Nobody thought to check,” admits Burnett.
43) When asked about how much misinformation to the public Burnett is responsible for, the producer replied, “Best thing I can tell you is never believe a word I say. Anything to protect my show.”
44) When asked about Susan’s famous final speech, Burnett revealed that the original plan was to only allow QUESTIONS before the final vote. When Susan asked if she could make a speech instead, Burnett was concerned about the limited verbal skills she had demonstrated to that point. He said okay, but advised her, “Have a point and keep it to a reasonable length.” Burnett then offered the rest of the tribe the option of asking a question or making a statement.
45) Probst, who said he was fairly miserable after 39 days on Pulau Tiga, said he loved Susan’s speech. “I was like, ‘Ah, this is great! Yes! Tell him!!’”
46) Hatch said the speech, which focused on disparaging Kelly, made him nuts. “I was thinking, ‘Shut up!’ I was afraid it was going to make everyone feel sorry for Kelly and I would lose votes!”
47) At the time of the Paley event (Tuesday, March 13), Hatch picked Colby as the winner of “Survivor II.” When a few giggles erupted, Hatch shook his head. “Not because of THAT!”
Is Colby the winner? A bit of extraneous closing commentary: Judging by Colby’s comments on last Wednesday’s show, it seems almost a fait accompli that Colby, Keith, Tina and Amber will make it to the final episode. Was Team Burnett wise to air Colby’s plan so early? Will it help or hurt the suspense generated by the next four all-new episodes? The only real wild cards appear to be the immunity challenges. If one assumes Keith keeps winning these, it seems inevitable that Nick will be voted out on the March 29 show, followed in order by Kentucky Joe, Elisabeth, Jerri and Amber. Essentially, the only REAL suspense at this point may be reserved for the big final installment, as Colby, Tina and Keith duke it out. But then again …
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March 17, 2001, 7:43 p.m. CST
by maxwell's hammer
Actually, i could see everybody banding together to vote out Jerri next week, as that would still leave a 4-3 advantage for Keith and Co. Or maybe Nick then Jerri. then maybe even Amber. If I were Keith, I'd cut a deal with Tina and Elizabeth and Rodger. Or maybe I'd keep Jerri around as long as possible, saving her for my partner for the final two, so I'd be gaurauteed a win in the final vote. strategy is fun.
March 17, 2001, 8:33 p.m. CST
As long as the other four don't talk. He's got each pair thinking he's one of them. They won't turn on Jerri this week, there's no reason to. It could screw up having Amber (Jerri's little sis) snowed. When Jerri is knocked off, Amber becomes a wild card. I think they'll wait until they're down to five. Amber next, and then Colby just has to beat the old people. Which should be too hard since, as Moe Says, "Old people are bad at everything". He will have only pissed off Jerri and Amber, so he should be okay in the final vote selection. Unless his rumored injury occurs, I have to peg Colby as the favorite. Sorry Elisabeth.
March 17, 2001, 8:34 p.m. CST
If the two ancient ones fear him and join up with Amber to vote him off after Jerri. Then quiet Amber has a pretty solid chance.
March 17, 2001, 9:11 p.m. CST
Hatch picked Alisia and Jeff to win as well and now that they are gone he has just changed his vote to Colby. I have the stinking suspicion that there will be a shakeup of somesort and that Colby will be next.
March 17, 2001, 10:54 p.m. CST
Why the F*** should we care at all about this piece of crap TV? Herc, I am ashamed that someone like you would give this type of programming even a modicum of respect. Believe me, this will certainly affect the weight I give to the reviews you post in the future. Then again, the studio hacks could have put some funky drug in your I.V.
March 17, 2001, 10:58 p.m. CST
Either he actually IS the dumb hick Texan as he would have the others believe or he bangs Elizabeth causing Jerri and Amber to turn on him. I don't know, he's been pretty smart so far. He snuck the flag onto the island to use as shelter, hasn't let his dick do his thinking (he easily could have had Jerri or Amber, but it would have pissed off the other and put a big X on his back), and he's doing a good job of being non-commital without angering anyone. I hate to say it, but I think it's bye bye Elizabeth this week because of the trouble she's been stirring up (and women can get really mean over vanity, so Amber and Jerri will want her gone because she's cute).
March 17, 2001, 11:03 p.m. CST
She's racking up the votes left and right. In the case of a tie, she's done due to having a ton of votes in the past. I would want to keep her around as long as possible just so I would be assured of surviving a tie with her.
March 17, 2001, 11:16 p.m. CST
It's not like he knows the final winner unless they did a "passing of the torch" with the first winner to the next. Does anybody else buy the theory that the extra three days is necessary due to another injury?
March 18, 2001, 2:53 a.m. CST
Tina and Keith are in it for the long haul, AND they know they will have to vote off Colby before he gets too close to the end... it's possible they would vote Colby off BEFORE Jerri, in order to protect their positions... Therefore, If Jerri gets down to the final four, watch out...a nightmare scenario could develop if Jerri wins immunity and starts voting her enenmies off, as Kelly did to Sue and Rudy. Tina might be exposed as the diabiolical Keyser Soze that she is, and the jury would reluctantly vote in favor of Jerri. Say what you want about Jerri, she's upfront and the tribal members pretty much know where they stand with her. That can't be said about Tina; just ask Mad Dog or Mitchell! Jerri could win!
March 18, 2001, 9:12 a.m. CST
First of all they voted for Colby in the first show after the merger. Those morons should have realized that Colby, being the strongest, and all around most athletic of the other tribe wouldn't have accumulated any votes since his tribe would have wanted him around to help with the challenges. Before the merger, you try to trim the fat of your tribe by getting rid of those that don't really help your tribe. Colby obviuosly was big man on campus for his tribe and they should have voted for Tina. Secondly, when the Kucha tribe lost Jeff and were down 5 - 4,those 4 should have gone to a member of the other tribe and laid out the facts for them; that the Kucha tribe ultimately decided who won the million ( because of tribal voting blocks you would have to assume that it would be 2 members of Ogakor in the final therefore giving a 4 to 3 Kucha advantage on the council who decided who would win the money. They should have gone to someone like Tina or Keith and said "Hey if you don't go our way in the vote to get Jerri off the island, and you continue to vote along tribal blocks there is no way that you will get the money if you make it to the finals." Its just stupid that these people don't realize that they are the ones who decide who gets what but they are not using that to their advantage.
March 18, 2001, 10:25 p.m. CST
That Rudy foo doesn't fool me, and Hatch, that dude has had more moldy weiners in him than Dodger Stadium.
March 19, 2001, 3:18 a.m. CST
Hey hittman, why don't you just watch your X-Men Dvd again and calm th fuck down? And as for the unconcerned Jeff Probst, yeah so? Do you think that Jennifer Anniston is sitting up nights, worrying about Matthew Perry's drug problem? Fuck no! She probably sending him threatening letters and e-mails that he better get his drugged-up ass back to the set so they can wrap up this shitty little season! As for the topic at hand, well I do loves me some Elisabeth, but Tina is the evil-bith-that-no-one-expected, so I have high hopes for her.
March 19, 2001, 9:03 a.m. CST
Can't believe that nobody has told Burnett yet that Hatch's snake was NOT, in fact, a deadly sea krait, but a mildly poisonous mangrove snake. Richard would have gotten sick had he been bitten, but he was never in any real danger.
March 19, 2001, 9:52 a.m. CST
So who was in the middle of the "sandwich"?
March 19, 2001, 10:26 a.m. CST
by B A Fett
and I can't help myself. I'm even gonna watch the sure-to-be lame 'best of' show this Wednesday.
March 19, 2001, 2:48 p.m. CST
Hmmm, who is next and who will be left. Nick, Roger and Liz against Amber, Colby, Keith, Tina and Mighty Mouth. Ogakor could vote Jerri out and still have the voting advantage and some peace of mind. Or could stick with it until all of Kucha is gone then go into a feeding frenzy. I studied these and many other scenarios and have arrived at the following: Next to go: Jerri (Mighty Mouth). Kucha will stay with their votes from last week and Tina and Colby will sneak across to vote her out. This sends shock waves to Amber and Keith, so the following week they scramble to form new ties to fame and fortune. All bets are off. Next to go will be Colby...he is the only REAL threat to win and thus becomes a danger like Alicia. Next comes Nick because he has not been able to win any challenges and Keith sneeks in yet another Immunity. Nick has been all but invisible to us..thanks Jeff! Tina and Roger have formed a team with Liz and will vote out Amber. Amber still is burning over Jerri getting the axe and is still on the outside. Yes, she is beautiful, but that can only take you so far. Keith finally gets his turn to watch his fire go out. Liz ends up in the #3 slot and that puts Roger and Tina into the finals. Roger is a true gentleman and will end up giving it to Tina for her loyalty and friendship to him. In the end, it was not about the money for Roger. He is our hope!
March 19, 2001, 3:51 p.m. CST
Come on, whos next?
March 20, 2001, 9:34 a.m. CST
It will be Colby, Keith and Tina as the final three. It will fall just as described up above in the article with the exceptions of an immunity challenge win here and there. In a test of endurance, I believe that Tina will beat out Keith. Say for instance it was that pole from the first Survivor, Tina would win out over Keith. I think that it'll be Tina and Colby in the final two and it could very well be a deadlock vote for who wins the million. Tina probably has the edge when it comes to the votes though as she has definite ties she has encouraged since the 2 tribes have merged. Colby really isn't associating with them and that will be his downfall. All that and the fact that Tina has shown that she can be just as two face and diabolical as the nex shows that she can and will survive. The only reason she lost that first immunity challenge to Keith was because Keith begged her to step down. Can you imagine him begging her to step aside in the final 3. Keith doesn't have what it takes. Colby and Tina do, but Tina was the smarter.
March 20, 2001, 3:18 p.m. CST
Ugh. First of all, I can't believe that Kucha was soooo stupid to vote Colby in Episode 7! If they were smart - they could have observed that Jerri was an outcast - I MEAN COME ON! Colby threw a bucket of water at her! Oh well. Anyways, there are what, 3 kuchas left? They don't stand a chance if the Ogakor aliance is sticking together. Though it would be nice to see them all turn on Jerri - That'll never happen! Kucha will be picked off one by one - in this order: Rodger, Nick, Elizabeth. The Tribe has spoken.
March 20, 2001, 7:57 p.m. CST
In the past 2 immunity challenges, Tina has demonstrated an intense desire to beat Keith, despite their "alliance." Once Kucha is kicked off, and Tina succeeds in outlasting Keith in an immunity challenge, he will be snuffed. Then Tina, Amber & Jerri could form an all-woman alliance. Everything hinges on winning immunity, but I have a hunch that Jerri wins. Although people seem to hate her, she is smart and manages to intimidate some of the contestants. Also, I think there is a side to her that is edited out: friendliness. Notice that Jeff & ALicia never badmouthed her. Who knows, maybe the extra 3 days is due to some extreme stubbornness in an immunity challenge. After all, the first Barramundi one lasted more than 10 hours!
March 21, 2001, 9:20 a.m. CST
Elisabeth sat secluded in the sand hollows behind Kentucky Joe
March 21, 2001, 10:50 a.m. CST
my Outback Resources told me that the additional "daze" were needed because when it came time to do the boomerang challenge, NOT ONE single survivor could throw it! it took 2 extra daze of solid practice with (i guess) Australia's Top Personal Booomerang Coaches... seems our fabulous and fearless, cross-section of America, was not up to the task the first time around...and didn't it seem odd that we didn't see them practicing, yet they all did pretty well (have any of you actually tried throwing one?? it ain't easy, that's for darn sure...that is, unless you
March 21, 2001, 9:32 p.m. CST
Colby is going to win, think about it. Colby has the best advantage because he is playing both sides of the fence. They will pick off Kucha one by one then who is left. Tina, Keith, Jerri, Amber, and Colby. Colby will team up with jeri and amber at that time and take out Keith and Tina. Then is is down to Colby, Jerri, and Amber. Colby is the stongest to win changellges, and probally the smartest out of those three. The when it comes time for council to vote...well who would you vote for. If Colby has this strategy, he will more than likely win. The only thing that would spoil it is Immunity changelles.
March 22, 2001, 9:23 a.m. CST
After Alecia was voted out, it became apparent that if things followed a predictable path, the final three would be Colby, Keith and Tina. If Jerri/Amber keep their alliance with their team mates, Elizebeth, Nick and Roger will be voted off, after which time, Jerri, and Amber will go. The key to whether this scenerio plays out lies with Amber and Jerri, and the next two episodes will tell the tale. If either of these two have any brains, they will only vote with their team mates for one more tribal council, voting to get rid of either Nick, Roger or Elizebeth (Elizebeth is the biggest threat of the 3 and should be the one). At that point there will only be two members of the opposing team left (Roger and Nick?). That will be the telling episode for the outcome. If Jerri and/or Amber have any "smarts", they must realize that they cannot win by siding with their team mates. When Mitch was voted out, Colby sided with Keith and Tina, while Jerri, Mitch and Amber went after Keith. Based upon this vote, Jerri and Amber must realize that Colby is with Keith and Tina. If they have this "smarts", they will form a new alliance with the two remaining members of the other team, after the next tribal council. Whoever the two are, they will quickly agree to any alliance that will keep them alive This will give Jerri and Amber the votes necessary to vote Colby off, leaving only Keith and Tina against the new alliance, and unless they can convince one of the four to switch, the final four will most likely be Jerri, Amber, and the two remaining members of the other tribe (unless Keith or Tina can win immunity for two succesive tries.) We will have the opportunity over the next two weeks to find out if either Jerri or Amber have the brains to make the right move. If they don't switch after the next vote, they clearly don't have what it takes to win.
March 25, 2001, 1:26 a.m. CST
but my pick to win ti all is nick if for no other reaso the fact that he is the most quiet and is the one in tje most danger everybody else has a chip of some sort against them: colby is in too many alliances, ambers alliance with jerri, what elisabeth attempted to do last week put her in danger, and neither keith and tina have a shaky alliance at best,rodger coming from kucha and the fisherman thing and jerry (my pick for the other of the final 2 contestants) well well we all no about her but : and it would be dum to vote off jerri anytime soon becaause her evil ways wuld help soeone going against her in the final two a winner
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