It’s crazy to think about, but Survivor: Ghost Island premiering at the end of the month is the 36th season of the show. That’s incredible. While the number may be slightly inflated because of CBS airing two cycles a year, we’re still talking about 18 solid years of television. Only Law & Order: SVU has had a longer run when it comes to non-news programming in primetime.
What’s also remarkable is that Survivor, through all of its highs and lows, really has not experienced all that much of a letdown. Sure, the ratings have been slowly declining, but you could make that argument for much of primetime programming on network TV. It rivaled shows like Empire and Modern Family on Wednesday night and the longer it lasts, the more we think that its end is tied more to what Jeff Probst and the producers want than the network ever canceling it outright.
Are there still concerns as we look towards the possibility of another milestone in season 40? Sure. Namely, we’re not sure there have been too many top-tier seasons as of late. Since Survivor: Cagayan (our favorite season of the show since the very beginning), we’d say that Millennials vs. Gen X and Cambodia: Second Chance are really the only two that crack the top 15. Last fall’s Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers redeemed itself slightly with a great conclusion but it took a little while to get there. Some of these seasons have struggled as of late simply by virtue of great characters being booted early, whereas others simply had either casting or production issues that kept them fromt being as great as they could be.
One of the long-term issues we’ve started to have with Survivor is a reliance on gimmicks as opposed to the purity of the game itself. If you’ve got great players and a few immunity idols here and there, does Ghost Island really matter? What about tribe designations or archetypes? We’d personally do away with some of that and get back more to basics in terms of season structure — focus on just finding great people and letting social dynamics play out. Also, emphasize the location, its geography, and its history a little bit more. Ever since Survivor: Samoa (which we feel ushered in a new era of the game in some ways), there are so many seasons that visually seem to blend together. Because of that, the pressure falls entirely on the quality of the game since you cannot pick up some of the slack with the location or the people.
When it comes to the casting and the editing, there are two things that we do think will continue to keep the ratings strong and the lifespan healthy:
1. Separate the game more from the TV show – We don’t need to see players talking so much about being on Survivor while playing Survivor. We don’t need the series to be meta. We like to embrace the fantasy element a little bit more in a world that’s already cynical on its own. Just edit some of the talk about the TV implications out — the same goes for players who are obviously just trying to go for hashtags or popular internet gifs. Don’t take us out of the experience.
2. A wide range of characters – We’ve seen the show skew a little too young as of late. We know sometimes with older players you see a reluctance to lie or make controversial moves, but we think it’s important to get the 50-and-above crowd into the game to add a little more depth and a real cross-section of Survivor fans.
Do you think that we’ll get a Survivor season 40, and what do you think needs to be done in order to get there? Share in the comments! Meanwhile, you can like CarterMatt on Facebook for some additional insight into the show. (Photo: CBS.)