Althought it may look like it at first blush, Beyond the Edge is not "Celebrity Survivor." The new reality series, which premieres on CBS tonight after Survivor, sees nine celebrities asked to spend two weeks roughing it in the jungles of Panama, competing for a cash prize for their charities. But despite the familiar setting (Panama was the location for several seasons of Survivor) and the months-ago rumors that Jeff Probst would be a producer on this show (best we can tell, he's not), Beyond the Edge isn't Survivor. It's not quite I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here! either. That show, a much campier version of the "celebs fending for themselves in the jungle" concept, was a real-time fan voting thing where the audience got to decide who stayed and who went.
Beyond the Edge is not a lark, nor does it involve the audience voting. The celebrities competing are challenging themselves to be equal to the elements and to go beyond their limits. But it doesn't involve any of Survivor's social strategy, mostly because it doesn't involve voting each other out. Rather than competing against each other, these nine celebs are (mostly) competing against themselves. Per the show's intro, their mission is "to prove that if we all work together, we can accomplish anything for the greater good." Yes, each week they'll take part in team challenges, with the winners earning money for their charities, and by the end of the season, the top earners will face off for a grand prize. But the only way any contestant will be eliminated before the finale is if they quit, which will be done by ringing a ceremonial bell at the nightly don't-call-it-tribal-council campfire visits with host Mauro Ranallo.
In short, if you're looking for the social strategy — or even something on the level of mess that is Celebrity Big Brother — this isn't it. That said, if you're into the human-spirit, overcoming-obstacles, pushing-past-your-comfort zone stuff that defines shows like Tough As Nails, this could be your thing.
But what of the celebrities? Which ones seem poised to make it the full two weeks and to contend for the grand prize? Here's a primer on each of the contestants, ranked in order of who's most likely to win.
Why He's Famous: Lewis played linebacker for the NFL's Baltimore Ravens, was named the MVP of Super Bowl XXXV, and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2018. Non-football fans may alsoi know him for the 2000 incident where he and two friends were accused of killing two men in a fight after a Super Bowl party in Atlanta. (Lewis accepted a plea deal of probation in exchange for his testimony.)
Why He Could Win: Going by the season premiere, Lewis looks to be one of the strongest — if not the strongest — of the nine celebrities, and strength and conditioning are going to play a big part in who survives to the end.
Why He Might Not: On a show that seems to lean heavily on human interest edits, it's unclear whether Lewis will be willing to bare all about his darkest moments.
Why He's Famous: He's a Billboard #1 country artist with the 2005 hit "That's What I Love About Sunday."
Why He Could Win: In addition to being a country music star, Morgan also spent 17 years in military service, which ought to give him a leg up in a competition this physical. He also emerges early on as a leader type who the others look to for guidance. In a game like Survivor, being a leader is dangerous. Out here, it would seem to only be an asset.
Why He Might Not: There's another natural leader out there who might eclipse Craig.
Why He's Famous: Another NFL hall-of-fame linebacker, Mike Singletary was one of the greats as middle linebacker for the vaunted Super Bowl-winning Chicago Bears. After he retired, Singletary became a coach in the NFL.
Why He Could Win: By the end of the first episode, not only is everybody calling Singletary "coach" — not just Ray Lewis, who he actually once coached — but he's also dolling out some pretty killer pep talks.
Why He Might Not: Not saying he's not in killer shape, but at age 63, Singletary is the oldest celebrity in the game.
Why He's Famous: The show chyron lists him as a "television personality," but more specifically, Underwood is a former contestant on The Bachelorette and eventually the lead on Season 23 of The Bachelor, who subsequently came out of the closet and walked right into a Netflix TV deal for his docuseries Coming Out Colton.
Why He Could Win: While not a hall-of-famer, Underwood aplayed both collegiate and pro football, which should give him a leg up when it comes to teamwork stuff with the likes of Lewis and Singletary.
Why He Might Not: When you're the other football player on the island, it means you're lagging far behind the two ahead of you. Underwood also makes a mental error in the season premiere that could be a sign of weakness to come.
Why She's Famous: Lauren's a country singer who first came on the scene as a contestant on the 10th season of American Idol, where she finished as runner-up.
Why She Could Win: She finished fourth on Dancing with the Stars in 2019, which is a more physically demanding discipline than you might think. She also proves herself to be adept at puzzles in the first episode, and puzzle queens tend to do well on shows like this.
Why She Might Not: At age 27, she's the youngest celebrity in the competition, which could end up being a detriment at some point.
Why She's Famous: Porizkova rose to fame as one of the more visible and glamorous supermodels of the 1980s, although younger audiences may know her better as a judge on three cycles of America's Next Top Model.
Why She Could Win: She put up with Tyra Banks for three seasons on America's Next Top Model! This lady is tough.
Why She Might Not: As evidenced in the first episode, even when she has good competitive instincts, she can't quite seem to convince her team to follow her lead.
Why He's Famous: As an NBA basketball player (where he was originally known as Ron Artest), Metta World Peace won an NBA title with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Why He Could Win: He's a pro athlete who isn't too far away from his playing days, so he's in great physical condition. Despite his reputation as an NBA brawler, he's always been incredibly friendly and likeable as a reality TV contestant.
Why He Might Not: His reality TV experience includes a Celebrity Big Brother season where he pretty much threw in the towel and allowed himself to get eliminated. This dovetails with what we see on Beyond the Edge, where Metta is already entertaining thoughts of ringing the quit bell on the first day.
Why She's Famous: A lawyer and pundit for cable news networks, Eboni is probably most famous for being a cast member on The Real Housewives of New York City.
Why She Could Win: Much like how Porizkova is a contender because she put up with Tyra Banks, Williams is a contender because anyone who could withstand Ramona Singer has to be made of iron and stone.
Why She Might Not: Much like Metta World Peace, Williams also considers leaving the competition after a rough first day that includes sinking in quicksand (tune in to see how that turns out). But despite her frustrations, she's not that bad of a competitor, she just seems like the type who doesn't flourish in situations where she's not in control.
Why She's Famous: The once and forever Stephanie Tanner on Full House (and Fuller House), Sweetin is eager to prove she's more than just her one most famous role.
Why She Could Win: She really seems to want it! That counts for a lot.
Why She Might Not: Right off the bat, Sweetin describes herself as "not an outdoorsy girl," which isn't a great sign at the beginning of a grueling two-week competition held entirely outdoors. She also describes herself as injury prone, a prophecy which comes to bear later in the episode. Sweetin may not want to ring the bell, but she at some point she may have to.
Beyond the Edge premieres on CBS Wednesday March 16th at 9:00 PM ET
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Joe Reid is the senior writer at Primetimer and co-host of the This Had Oscar Buzz podcast. His work has appeared in Decider, NPR, HuffPost, The Atlantic, Slate, Polygon, Vanity Fair, Vulture, The A.V. Club and more.