Exotic settings and heated competition push "Temptation Island," "Survivor: Australia" ahead of ABC's "The Mole"
The summer of 2000 brought a new genre to American television known as "reality TV." The success of "Survivor" and, to a lesser extent, "Big Brother" opened the flood gates for a wave of new reality shows.
Networks scrambled to emulate the success of CBS's reality summer, and the results are finally debuting on the small screen.
The first reality show of the new year is ABC's "The Mole" (airing Tuesdays at 8 p.m.). Ten players have been selected to travel the world and accomplish tasks. For every completed challenge, more money is added to the growing pot.
However, one of the ten is a mole — hence the title — who is working against the team to sabotage the challenges.
Members of the team are eliminated (or as the show says, executed) every so often when they take a quiz about the characteristics of the mole.
The person who scores the lowest is then eliminated from the show. Whoever discovers the mole gets the cash.
While "The Mole" lacks the endurance aspect of "Survivor," as the team has been staying in luxurious European hotels, the concept plays out surprisingly well. The method of eliminating people has a reason to it — whoever knows the least about the mole is kicked off.
Beyond that, this show won't generate the buzz that surrounded "Survivor." In fact, "The Mole" is already being drowned out by the anticipation of "Survivor 2."
In its now patented shameless and sleazy style — remember Darva Conger? — Fox's entry into the reality craze is a show called "Temptation Island" (airing Wednesdays at 9 p.m.).
In this show, four "committed couples" — not engaged or married — agree to spend time on a remote island with twenty or so single persons. The men are put in a camp with the single women, and the women are put in a separate resort with the single men.
Let the temptation begin. In what could only be described as a twisted crossover of "Survivor" and "The Real World," "Temptation Island" tests the couples' relationships by isolating themselves from each other and bombarding them both with the opportunity to cheat.
Unlike "The Mole," this show has had no trouble attracting buzz and controversy. Many groups across the nation condemn the show's trashy premise, which simply causes more people to watch it.
The problem with "Temptation Island" isn't that it is immoral or too racy — it's just not very good. The show is incoherent, as there is no rhyme or reason to the way the show plays out. Beyond that, it is set up like a game, similar to "Survivor," but there's no real goal or ending.
The hit summer show "Survivor" returns to CBS this Sunday after the Super Bowl. In this go-round, the castaways aren't really cast away anywhere. The show takes place in the Australian Outback.
Feeding off the success of the original, the show promises larger production values and more exciting challenges.
Predictably, this cast is much more attractive than the original's band of sixteen.
Unlike the first "Survivor," each player is entering the outback with strategies and alliances mapped out. This should make for much in the way of drama and diabolical Richard-esque dealings.
CBS has a lot of confidence in the show, as it is putting it up against NBC mainstay "Friends" on Thursday nights. Surprisingly, NBC is already feeling the heat.
For the month of February, the network has decided to boot Steven Weber's "The Weber Show," which airs after "Friends," and to extend "Friends" by ten minutes.
The rest of the hour will be filled by "Saturday Night Live" skits.
NBC made this change in hopes of preventing people from switching over to CBS after "Friends" for the second half of "Survivor," which is typically when a member is voted off the show at tribal council.
How long this new wave of reality TV will last is anyone's guess. When "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" debuted in 1999 to huge ratings, a wave of primetime game shows hit the air, like "Winning Lines," "Twentyone" and "Greed." Yet the only show still around is "Millionaire."
Perhaps the reality TV craze will go the way of the game shows — which in a way is a derivative of reality TV — leaving only an original like "Survivor" behind.
Or perhaps not. With the looming writers' and actors' strikes threatening to paralyze Hollywood and halt the start of the 2001-2002 season, networks have been busy buying up reality ideas from around the world.
Since reality television shows tend to require no writers or actors, this would be the perfect solution to fill the vacuum of the fall season.
CBS has already ordered up "Survivor 3" and "Survivor 4," with possible locations in Africa and South America. There's also rumors of a possible "Big Brother 2." Many other networks have shows in the making as well.
Of course, the true survivor is the reality show that withstands the ultimate tribal council: the Neilsen ratings. Despite the desire and possible necessity for reality TV, the low-rated shows will quickly fall off the radar. And if the fickle and merciless American public grows tired of reality TV, the genre will be voted off and replaced with the next great thing.
All Scene Stories for Wednesday, January 24, 2001