NEW YORK – It was fun while it lasted.
For the better part of a year, I've been able to put out of my mind the nagging suspicion that Survivor isn't exactly on the up and up. I guess I was enjoying myself too darn much.
Now the show is looking more and more phony everyday and it's not likely I'll be able to watch future editions with the same blind acceptance I brought to the first two.
The latest revelation came on Monday when executive producer Mark Burnett came right out and admitted at a Museum of TV & Radio seminar that he stages reenactments of some scenes with body doubles standing-in for the castaways whenever he feels like it.
What was really galling was how unapologetic he and the network were about this blatant manipulation of Survivor's so-called reality. The network dismissed the reenactments as "window-dressing."
Burnett claimed nothing he does in the production process has any effect whatsoever on the outcome of the survival competition.
OK, that's what he says. What would you expect him to say - that the whole thing's a fake?
I still can't believe he admitted the reenactments in the first place. He must think the public doesn't mind being bamboozled. Either that, or he's begun to believe all the press he's been getting that portrays him as the savior of network television. All that attention has evidently made him careless. If I were him, I would keep my big mouth shut when asked about how Survivor is made.
As it stands right now, this week's revelations represent the only official confirmation that things aren't always what they seem on Survivor. But the revelations are nonetheless troubling because they lend credence to accusations of inconsistency that previously were easy to ignore as the ravings of a few disgruntled gadflies.
Now, though, you find yourself beginning to wonder about the various rumors, speculations and charges that are making the rounds concerning the recently ended Survivor 2, including that Colby Donaldson might not have been the legitimate winner of one or more of the immunity challenges that propelled him into the finals; and that Elisabeth Filarski might have been caught on tape voting actually for Colby and not Tina Wesson as was depicted in the final episode.
Personally, I possess no proof either way of the validity of these and any other charges. But the way they've been accumulating in the last few weeks has me troubled. And now we have the show's own producer admitting that he'll even go so far as to re-create scenes if he thinks it will enhance his show, even if the show's credibility depends on the majority of its viewers believing that what they're watching is real.
Times sure have changed. In the 1950s, you had to call congressional hearings if you wanted to compel a TV-show producer to admit he stacked the deck in favor of the more-popular of two quiz-show contestants.
Today, a producer thinks nothing of standing up in public and admitting he's putting you on, and laughing all the way to the bank.