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Survivor has evolved from a national treasure to a niche bastion of superfandom

  • "Those who haven’t been tuning in all these years might also be disoriented to see how the show has transformed," says Carrie Battan. "It’s rare that a well-established franchise makes room for genuine evolution, but the latest season of Survivor is a unique document of an institution attempting to change—sometimes awkwardly, sometimes triumphantly. It’s a season in which the show fumbles with its past and grapples with rapidly shifting social mores in real time." Battan adds: "The show frequently invites old cast members to return for specially themed seasons, and spends plenty of time reminiscing about its past. Much like the relentless stream of reboots and never-ending sequels that have overtaken Hollywood, Survivor is about its past as much as its present or its future, and its new contestants are often committed and knowledgeable fans looking to model their games after well-established archetypes of the show. (Jeff) Probst, ever skilled at delivering wry remarks, has stuck around, growing slightly more grizzled each year, adding a potent layer of continuity to the series. Even the million-dollar prize remains the same, inflation be damned. And yet, in spite of all the nostalgia Survivor has for itself, the show has been committed to its own evolution. The early seasons billed themselves as social experiments, and had the lackadaisical pacing of nature documentaries, but as time wore on the showrunners must have decided that watching people become thinner and dirtier on camera wasn’t sufficiently exciting. Each season, new twists, themes, and challenges were introduced to amp up the strategic component of the game, and the pure survival aspect receded into the background."

    TOPICS: Survivor, CBS, Reality TV