Survivor isn't going anywhere anytime soon. CBS announced today that they would be ordering Seasons 19 and 20 for the 2009-2010 television year. Jeff Probst will return as the host, heading off any resurgence of the speculation from previous years that he would move on to other projects. The eighteenth season, Survivor: Tocantins, has remained a ratings winner, consistently winning the highly competitive Thursday night timeslot in terms of total viewers (13.61m), adults 18-49 (4.5/13) and adults 25-54 (5.6/14.) Last week's episode showed modest gains over the premiere, though as American Idol begins its annual multi-week detour through the Thursday 8PM timeslot those numbers should wobble slightly.
When I took a flyer on the first episode of a series I'd read about in TV Guide I knew nothing about Survivor. Partially I was just confused as to whether it was a sport, a game show, some sort of promotional gimmick or a documentary. I wasn't sure I wanted to watch more than the few minutes it would take to find out. After Season 20 airs Survivor will have been on the air for a decade. About 350 people will have played the game. That's a lot further than the series producers believed it would go, much less the journalists who railed against it as the worst degradation of American culture and a fad soon to go the way of the 8-track tape. Over the past ten years hundreds of new reality shows hit the airwaves. A few were blatant copy-cats but most have borrowed aspects of Survivor's approach to television production, format, style and innovative advertising strategies. Most were flops, some were a lot of fun, but Survivor has maintained a unique appeal and a loyal fan base.
Since Survivor doesn't have a celebrity cast who can demand more money, and since the storylines are guaranteed to be shaken up twice a year when each new cast and location are introduced, Survivor doesn't face many of the concerns that lead to other series getting canceled. The Simpsons and ER are often regarded as incredibly long running shows, having debuted in 1989 and 1994 respectively. But NBC's Meet the Press, another non-fiction show with a revolving cast and consistently changing storylines, has been on the air since 1947. Survivor isn't quite like any of those shows. It has its own model. I can't think of a clear precedent to prove when the show would have to come to an end or why. It'll be interesting to find out. In the meanwhile Survivor fans have two more seasons to look forward to.
-Henry Jenkins, BuddyTV Staff Writer
(photo credit to CBS)