Behind The Scenes Facts About Survivor

Jul 16, 2020Shilo Maloney

We all have an understanding that the term 'reality TV' is very lucid. That's true for most shows such as Keeping Up With The Kardashians and The Real Housewives franchise. We assume a lot of the drama and storylining is crafted to make it all seem like it's happening as we see it, when in fact, there's a lot of manipulation for the sake of entertainment, which isn't a bad thing. Even shows such as Survivor, which seem unscripted, have their ways of making things work for the camera. With the shows 40th season looming, it's a great time to let you know a few things about the show you love.

Is Reality...Real?

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We all know not to trust everything that happens on television, regardless of the source or the style that we see on it. Like any other genre of TV, reality shows need a sense of plot, story, and characters in order for their premise to work, and for the drama on it to turn things into entertainment. So, a lot of the conflict can either be posed, manufactured or simply cut together to make things seem like they're happening as they are when they might not be. This is more so in lifestyle reality shows that the Kardashians and Housewives have made so famous.


Different Genres For The Drama

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There's a lot of different types to reality TV. From lifestyle to love, there are genres within a genre that all cater to different audiences. The Bachelor isn't in the same league as The Amazing Race, but they're playing the same sport, per se. Producers behind the scenes have different jobs to make these respective shows what they are. The Amazing Race's premise is focused on real-life tension and intensity, and the onus is on the crew to expertly capture the drama of this reality show. In contrast, shows like The Bachelor do things a little differently. 

How The Bachelor & Bachelorette Do Their Business

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Franchises like The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, and hit shows, such as Love Island and Love Is Blind, have to stage some of their drama to make things messy and interesting. Things are edited and cut out to make certain conflicts and moments seem like they're happening as we see them. This is a different approach to competition shows such as The Voice, America's Got Talent, and even Survivor itself.

Survivor's Competition Complex

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Competition reality shows have a structure that brings out their drama, so these ones are more honest than others in the representation of their entertainment. Survivor is one of the chief shows that navigates this better. While it seems as though the manner in which the contestants live, communicate and compete unfolds the way we see it on TV, there's a lot more going on to make everything appear the way that it does.

Competition For The Cameras

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This doesn't mean that there are green screens and things filmed in-studio, that's not the case here. Survivor has spent 20 years being an authentic showcase of grit and instinct within the human capacity without bending the reality of things too much. So, as the 40th season of the classic hits screens, pay attention to a couple of things that show just how this cultural cornerstone came together just for our entertainment.

The Challenge Walk-through

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On-screen, it seems as though the host, Jeff Probst, arrives and addresses the teams with a new challenge, and then leaves the contestants to rush to complete it. What happens when the cameras stop rolling is what helps the teams pull off their challenges effectively. Jeff and challenge creator John Kirhoffer walk each tribe through the challenge to help them complete it. It's more to guide them than assist them, and essentially, the teams know exactly what's needed from them to complete the task at hand.

It Wasn't Always Known As Survivor

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Survivor didn't always have the name that it has now. UK producer, Charlie Parsons, initially had an idea to do a 'survivor' type of idea where tribes would compete in challenges on an island with no resources but their wits. The first draft of this show actually aired in 1997 in Sweden and was called Expedition Robinson before it turned into the show we know it as now.

It's Also A Love Island

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The pop culture sensation, Love Island, doesn't really own the concept of people entering a reality show on an island for money, but end up finding their soulmates. Survivor is also known to be a hub where some contestants have fallen in love and started lives with each other. Contestants such as season 39's Elizabeth Beisel and Jack Nichting, season 36's Jenna Bowman and Sebastian Lowe as well as Amber Brkich and "Boston" Rob Mariano who've been together for 10 years, have all been together since they appeared on the show.

Dream Teams Are There To Test

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The show's contestants have to be protected as much as humanly possible. They are, after all, the currency of the show and the source of entertainment. Therefore, every enduring task has to be tested before the contestants can participate in certain challenges. That's why the show hires people who form part of The Dream Team. A group of willing 16-20 twenty-somethings who test out the challenges before the tribes do. This ensures the viability and reasonable safety of certain tasks so that no serious accidents happen.

The Reality Has Reenactments

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Executive Producer, Mark Burnett, admitted that he sometimes re-enacts scenes for the CBS show to get a more picturesque shot for a particular moment that happens. He also stated that he didn't think that the concept of 'reality' should get in the way of good production quality, which makes complete sense when you consider how beautifully shot the series is.

Casting The Contestants

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Like any other Hollywood production, the prettiest people make for the best results in the picture. That's why, if you're a model or an actor, there's a good chance that casting director, Lynne Spillman, will definitely favor you ahead of people with actual survival skills.

Probst Wasn't Always Going To Be The Host

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While it's almost impossible to imagine the Survivor US branch having anyone either than Jeff Probst as the iconic host, this wasn't always the case as another famous face was set to host the show. He actually had to square off with The Amazing Race host, Phil Keoghan, for the spot, which Jeff obviously won while Phil Keoghan went on the be the face of the famous traveling show.

Castaways Are Told What To Wear

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The contestants don't just dawn on the clothes that they have to spare. The producers essentially tell them what to wear on the show for specific scenes. This is purely to affect the look of each frame and avoid labeling that the show isn't sponsored by.

The Contestant's Contracts

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There's obviously contracts that stipulate pay and how each contestant must behave. But also, their family members have to sign confidentiality contracts too. The contracts detail the experience for them all to expect when they sign up for the show. While some rules such as quid pro quo are not permitted between tribes because hinders the tension and competitive nature of the show.

The Voting 

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While the members in each tribe aren't pressured by producers to vote a particular way, but there is a type of an arrangement between cast and the creative crew. The producers give the contestants the freedom to vote however they want, but, the producers play some part there too as they arrange those votes in the most dramatic order possible.

While you'll find a lot of comfort knowing that the sensational series isn't at all too fake to fathom, a lot of the elements that make the show what it is are all real. Survivor is just amazingly put together for our entertainment, and if their goal is to create great television, then they're doing a spectacular job 40 seasons in the game.

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