August 24, 2006 12:12 AM by Joe Blackmon
CBS tried bringing back old cast members. CBS tried slipping in a celebrity by casting a former NFL quarterback. CBS tried dividing castaways by sex and age. None of which generated sufficient buzz to turn around ratings on their still solid but also steadily declining reality TV franchise Survivor. Now, in its thirteenth season, CBS has finally played the race card.
For Survivor Cook Islands, the castaways will initially be divided into four tribes along ethnic lines (African-American, Asian-American, Hispanic and White). This bold move by CBS is both groundbreaking and controversial. It’s groundbreaking because standard practice for most major network reality shows in the past has been to have no more than one or two minorities in a cast. Survivor could well be the first major network reality series where the majority of the contestants are minorities. It’s controversial for obvious reasons.
The controversial aspects of this move appear to already be paying dividends for CBS. Unlike recent editions of Survivor that received little press coverage, the news about the racial divide on Survivor Cook Islands is the talk of both mainstream media and blogs. Everyone wants to provide their point of view on whether this is a fascinating social experiment or just a really bad idea.
If this new concept for dividing tribes does result in higher ratings for Survivor, then it begs the question of “What’s next?” Will there be tribes divided based on religious beliefs, sexual orientation, etc? Based on the number of actors and models that keep getting cast on Survivor, what about a tribe consisting of actors/models and a tribe consisting or normal everyday people?