'Survivor: Palau' will pack more pow
The series' 10th version promises to be more challenging and edgy than the `Vanuatu' adventure.
By Hal Boedeker | Sentinel Television Critic
Posted February 13, 2005
Although Survivor: Vanuatu ranks as the fifth most-watched series this season, many fans found that installment a tad boring. Host Jeff Probst acknowledges that edition lacked distinctive players to rival past favorites Rupert Boneham and Colby Donaldson.
"You had 18 normal people as far as Survivor goes," Probst says. But the new show, Survivor: Palau, "is as different from Vanuatu as you can get."
Palau, the franchise's 10th version, debuts Thursday, when the show rolls out 20 castaways.
"In the first episode, you'll get to know seven or eight characters," Probst says. "You have a gay hairdresser; the girl with the tattoos who never fit in; the pretty nanny; Wanda, who can't stop singing; Willard, the old attorney who's in great shape. All bets are off with this group."
The CBS reality series provides a major twist at the start: Three players are ejected in the first episode.
"It sends a shock through the game," Probst says. "The whole key to keeping the show successful is keeping the survivors off-base. We're never going to completely change the show."
CBS is thrilled to have Survivor back after Wickedly Perfect, another reality series, flopped in the same time slot. Despite complaints, the Vanuatu version averaged 19.6 million viewers, and the network needs the Survivor audience to beef up its Thursday lineup.
The Palau backdrop in the Pacific should be a lure for its underwater sea life and for its ruins of World War II planes and ships.
"The wrecks are spectacular and completely eerie," Probst says. "Survivor is so hard on people. You do it in a place where there are remnants of real battle, it upped the stakes emotionally."
The Palau series is more physical than the last show, and producers warned players to be ready for the challenge.
"In Vanuatu, it was men versus women, and we had to do challenges in a different way," Probst says. "You can read into it that we don't do men versus women in Palau. We brought out every water challenge we couldn't do. If you want to vote off strong people, your tribe will be coming to tribal council more often."
Palau offers the tallest cast ever on Survivor. Other players include a Las Vegas showgirl, a New York firefighter and a 23-year-old dolphin trainer, Ian Rosenberger, from Key Largo.
"He's 6-foot-8," Probst says. "He's instantly likable, youthful, exuberant. He was a home run when we were casting the show. He didn't disappoint."
Despite the complaints about Vanuatu, Probst found that version personally satisfying. After the series wrapped, he began a romance with Julie Berry, who finished fifth.
"It's the best thing that ever happened to me in this world," Probst says. "I was hard on her at tribal council. Once the show is over, I usually call people and say it was a good season. When I was talking to Julie, we talked a little longer. . . . If this doesn't work out, I'm going to give up on love for a while."