Plot: What’s it about?
Where to begin… where to begin… I am pretty sure what I’m going to say has already been said a billion times, but what the hell. Late in May 2000, CBS introduced the reality series “Survivor”, and history was made. While the show started off with a decent number of viewers, it slowly became history in the making. Summer TV viewing is never big, but “Survivor” made it big. Reality television, which was really nothing new with shows like “The Real World” and “Cops” being on the air for a number of years, was born again. Sort of like when ABC introduced “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire”, a slew of game shows were slapped on the air within a matter of months. Same thing with “Survivor”, networks bought the rights to popular reality game shows from other countries. While “Big Brother” was more like “Big Bomb”, audiences became eager for new programming, where at the time I am writing this, Fox just introduced the controversial “Temptation Island” and ABC started to air its own version of the popular Belgium show “The Mole”. And of course, “Survivor II” is just a few weeks away (and CBS has just signed on for “Survivor III” and “Survivor IV”).
But again, “Survivor” was truly a groundbreaking show. The basic premise is this: eight men and eight women are divided into two different tribes and must survive on an island. There they battle each other in competitions, eat rats to survive and basically take the saying “every man for himself” (or every woman for herself) to the extreme. And every three days, depending on who won what challenge and who lost, the losing tribe votes to kick one of their own off. The last survivor gets one million dollars. And during the course of the series, alliances are formed, arguments ensue and the normal kind of manipulation and treachery you’d come to expect. Of course, as most of us know, the tribes then merged once a certain number were kicked off. Audiences were fascinated by the tension and drama, while executive producer Mark Burnett had an instant hit.
Millions and millions spent an hour each Wednesday during the summer to see who got the boot off the island. Again, the 20 something million who tuned in each week was astounding, because no one really watches television during the summer. The big finale at the end of August drew a whopping 51 million viewers, being the second most watched TV show of the year 2000 right below the Super Bowl.
While I’m sure fans would have loved the complete series on DVD to re-experience those disgusting, heart-racing moments again, this DVD edition is more like a “Best Of”. Here, for two hours and fifteen minutes, you get the most famous moments from all the episodes. Most of it you’ve seen, but some of it is brand new and includes dirty language as well as the infamous, uncensored Richard Hatch nudity. Some moments I would have liked to seen were not included or were briefly shown. But what you get is a nice package, including audition interviews as well as the video tapes the cast aways sent in, hoping they’d get picked to be on the show (poor old Gretchen did a rip-off of “The Blair Witch Project”). If dirt on the cast aways you like, I’m sure you’ll get a kick out of how Sue lost her virginity and that Rich actually got married. The DVD works like this: every chapter stop focuses on who got kicked off in order and the stuff in between. Now you can rewatch the intense Sue and Kelly catfight, see the emotional tribal councils and even get a peek at “Survivor II” (which is the same damn promo you’ve probably seen a dozen times by now). So, if you want to relive the best moments of show over and over, this disc is for you. The way I see it, you either love the show or you hate it. I know there are large groups of both. I am a fan of the show, and I do admit to watching most of the episodes during the summer. I’m not so into it as so many people seem to be, but I find the show entertaining. Some of you think it’s a new low and much exploitment where people eat rats and bugs in a chance to score a cool mil. Some of you think how wonderful and exciting it really is. Still, has anyone ever thought that the show’s editing make things and some of the contestants a lot worse or a lot better than they really are? Ah, the magic of editing… it does give you the way how Burnett and his crew wanted you to perceive it. But those are some general thoughts of mine. Still, if you’re a big fan of the show, definitely consider getting this disc.
Video: How does it look?
Presented in 1.33:1 full frame, this disc looks quite good. Of course it’s a TV series and pretty much just ripped from tape, but colors are bright and solid, I didn’t notice any noise and the picture is pretty sharp. However, it’s not perfect. I was surprised to see a tiny bit of particles on this transfer… go to 2:00:08 to see what I mean. Around the 47 or 48 mark, it’s a night time shoot, meaning the camera quality is really fuzzy with the night vision. Still, it doesn’t get much better than this… another spiffy Paramount transfer.
Audio: How does it sound?
We’re treated to a 5.1 Dolby Digital mix… and it is pretty good. While I think a 2.0 surround mix would have been fine, most of the 5.1 comes from the now famous tribal council music as well as other music, and some loud noises. I feel this mix was a bit overdone and doesn’t feel so natural. Music sometimes over laps dialogue which is annoying, but I give credit to Paramount for trying to create some kind of experience with this. Not the greatest track ever, but it’s certainly not the worst 5.1 ever.
Supplements: What are the extras?
The features are pretty good, and do give a sense of having all the episodes on DVD despite the fact they’re not there. The features just make this package nice and more complete.
I guess the main portion of the disc is the 21 minute Survivor: Inside The Phenomenon Documentary. This makes for a pretty good watch to gain some more information and trivia on the series. Executive Producer Mark Burnett discusses his inspiration of how it came to be as well as finding the island and how he got the rights to shoot there. Host Jeff Probst gives his input on getting the job and the show in general as well. Each also talks about the cast and other aspects of the show. If you’re interested in some background and the show’s creative process, gives this “documentary” a whirl, it’s worth your time. Again, Paramount offers subtitles on their extras, which is always a really great touch.
The next sections is more like the “Survivor Encyclopedia”. Episode Summaries gives the title as well as all the important plot points on each episode. This includes happenings, challenge results and how everyone voted. To brush up on your “Survivor” knowledge and to get a glance back on the episodes in general, this section is for you. I found this to be a very worthwhile addition.
Survivors gives you the lowdown on all sixteen cast aways, where you learn their personal information, their favorite things, a whole voting history and their final words in a nice presentation with video where we hear and see the cast aways themselves on the final tribal council with the voting (and it is uncensored). This gives you all you need to know about the famous sixteen who are still using their fifteen minutes of fame (Colleen has a movie with Rob Schneider due out in June 2001).
Finally, rounding it off is a whole section on The Island itself. There you can get a little map, and learn about the terrain, wildlife and climate. There are also pictures and text about some of the locations such as the Tribal Council and the tribe beaches.
This is surprisingly a nice disc for a revolutionary (well, in a sense) TV series. The picture quality is great, the 5.1 is good and the extra features will feed any fan of the show’s appetite. I know so many of us would have liked the whole series, but this disc is just fine. The retail is also pretty low (20 bucks, not your usual 30 dollar Paramount DVD) making this a very good buy if you’re a fan of the series. There’s also no denying this is a cash-in technique as well, since “Survivor II” is just around the corner. Highly recommended if you enjoyed the show.