Survivor:Fiji Tops the Ratings Again
Even with the temporary change to a different day of the week, and heading up against another popular show (America’s Next Top Model), Survivor: Fiji didn’t lose ground.  The show placed first both in viewers and coveted demographics (adults 25-54  and adults 18-49), and proved that despite the nay-sayers who have been wondering if the Survivor franchise has any juice left in it, the audience is still there.

The show’s format this season has been taking a lot of heat from viewers and reviewers alike.  The creation of “class” for the castaways was a big gamble.  On the one hand, the audience was most likely going to feel sympathetic for Ravu, with their initial total lack of any resources, including fire and clean drinking water.  I mean, come on: when you see a group of people licking dew off of leaves to survive, you are going to start rooting for them to take down the smug and well-fed Moto.  This was especially true since, in an admittedly less likable field than normal, most of the more endearing castaways – clever Yau-Man Chan, scrappy Michelle Yi, fiery pre-Anthony-bullying-frenzy James “Rocky” Reid – were trapped on the underdog tribe.

On the other hand, it is these very same castaways who we then had to watch, week after week, suffer from a lack of resources, get physical beaten up and emotionally beaten down as they lost every single challenge, and become increasingly less likable as stress and fear set in.

Everyone likes to root for the underdog, but no one wants to watch that underdog get just mercilessly pummeled on with no relief in sight.  Over the past few weeks, the buzz in the blogosphere has been that viewers were getting disgusted and were about to give up.  So CBS seems to have timed their tribe switch up just right: in addition to waiting long enough to get everyone feeling pretty riled up about it, they saved the payoff for a week where they really needed the audience to both pay attention and feel invested in changing their viewing habits to a new day of the week.

However you have felt about the show, if you have been watching Survivor: Fiji so far, one thing is clear: Mark Burnett and CBS are masters of manipulating the audience.  When it comes to ratings, it doesn’t matter if you’re liked or hated, so long as you are watched, and even in its fourteenth season, Survivor proves it still has the power to hold its viewers.

- Leslie Seaton, BuddyTV Staff Columnist

(Images courtesy CBS)