Sight unseen, I know that somewhere out there in cyberspace some wag has already dubbed the upcoming season of the show Survivor: Jim Crow Islands.
Both the producer and the host of the show call the twist…segregating the new cast (see above) by ethnicity (four teams: one white, one black, one Latino, and one Asian-American)…a bold “social experiment” (they’ve started seasons with teams separated by gender and by age so why not race?)
A more cynical soul (such as yours truly) might call it an incredibly cynical and manipulative stunt designed to pump up the slowly-fading ratings of what used to be the most popular “reality” TV show (American Idol has seized that particular crown and seems unlikely to give it back anytime soon.)
But, that said, the publicity stunt is also, to be fair, actually quite brilliant. Survivor is getting more press and attention than it has in a long while (some civic officials in New York have already weighed in to express their outrage and, this being an election year…and the media always being a handy target…I’m sure other politicians will jump on the bandwagon before all is said and done) and chances are that all of that will turn into killer ratings…at least for the first few episodes of the new season…as people tune in to see what’s going to happen (and maybe root for their favorite ethnic group.)
Perhaps my misgivings about the concept are misplaced and Survivor: Cook Islands will turn out to be compelling, enlightening television and that give us all new insights on race and interpersonal relationships while at the same time being smart, sparkling entertainment….I’m not holding my breath on that but hey could happen, couldn’t it? Yeah, I didn’t think so either…