Survivor: China – The Best Worst Idea Ever

I like Survivor.

There, I’ve said it. Please scroll down and immediately flog me in the comments. I don’t care. I’ve had this romantic notion of being trapped on a deserted island since I was a kid and saw Brook Shields’ (ahem) assets in The Blue Lagoon.

When the reality TV show debuted back when I was in college, I couldn’t get enough. Over the seven years since I’ve had highs and lows with the show, but still generally enjoy it (and am currently playing catchup with this season’s torrents).

But, when I read the news that Survivor will tackle China in its next edition, I had to stop and rethink this little love affair.

survivorlogo.jpgI mean, tropical island China is NOT. The primitiveness mixed with extreme (apart from the silicon) natural beauty is a combo that works, and anytime the producers have veered from that chemistry, the show has suffered (Survivor: Outback, Survivor: Africa)

The curiosity is killing me. What is Survivor: China, and how did they get the officials to sign off on this? From my time here I’ve learned one concrete thing that never wavers about China – it does not want to look poor.

The theme of Survivor being about putting a bunch of city-bred Americans in an aboriginal environment where between grunting it out and stabbing each other in the back, contestants get to learn a tad about the culture of the area. How do you do that with 5,000 years of continuous “civilization” in a place? How do you do that in a country that is trying so desperately to appear modern and hide the bits that don’t fit the official image?

Some guesses:

  • The Minorities Package: Time to pay one of China’s plethora of non-Han inhabitants to dress up and dance around like grandma used to. Challenges would mostly revolve around not breaking down in absolute pitty for the people who’ve sold out their culture for a few RMB.
  • The Hainan Package: Maybe the show will stick with its island theme and try to find a bit of sand on this semi-tropical island that isn’t littered with Chinese tourists and… well… litter. Challenges could have contestants each be given the million up front and then have ‘missions’ in Sanya – whomever hasn’t been ripped off the full sum after 39 days, can keep what pennies are left.
  • The Dongbei Package: Perhaps the competitors will be forced to live out a cold northeastern winter in Liaoning, Jilin or Heilongjiang. Challenges can revolve around who can stay inside the common coal-heated home the longest without suffering from acute respiratory failure.
  • The FLG Prison Package: Contestants are put in a re-education camp for members of the FLG. Any Survivor that gets out with all their organs wins a prize (prorated by number of organs not lost).

In the end my guess is that it’s going to be set in Yunnan or Sichuan, in a remote steamy bamboo forest where contestants can be forced to eat random insects, have day trips to a panda farm, eat spicy food and generally live just like the bazillion expats and tourists that are already there.

If the producers are able to pull it off without grossly offending China (an impossible feat in and of itself), they’re sure to have a whole load of new fans – which, of course, this is all about. But, more likely than not, laowai will be hearing for years about the evil American imperialist show that misrepresented China and only displayed the poor, or old China – not the shiny new bits.

Still, tell me you’re not going to watch.

29 Responses

  1. @panda
    too many Starbucks, KFCs, MacDs etc in Beijing.

    . . I’m really smitten by the FLG Prison Package. Got be something in that. The prisoners/survivors learn how to behave properly and a few other needy folk benefit from occasional donations.

  2. Pingback: the art of stu » Blog Archive » Survivor: China? Say what?

  3. How about this. Take a group of Shanghai businessmen, and drop them off in the middle of Gansu for a month with no cell phones, KTV, or QQ.

  4. I like Ben’s suggestion best!

    But of course the show will need to be morally positive and non-corrupting. Thus the Chinese version of The Apprentice featured none of the bullying and mind-games of the Donald Trump-driven US version. And so no-one watched.

    The same kinda thing will happen this time ’round, too.

  5. I love the idea that Survivor will be held in china, it brings culture to life and the survivor intro theme song will be cool. The contestants will be so excited about going far in an island like china that the game will drop them on their paws. Cant wait!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!, I hope this seasons contestants are better have more personalitys.

  6. I suspect one reason for china is that Survivor would add to the media buzz around the 2008 Olympics.

    Most of China is further from the equator than Survivor has filmed. So, I’m thinking that they might use one of the Chinese held island groups in the South China Sea like the Spratlys or Paracels. I found what would be a great location in the Amphrite Group of the Paracel Islands. See my website. Dan

  7. i think its cool to a season of survivor on the main land. But MB would like all locations to be hot. So i think it will be held on an island. I think it would be a good idea to strand them in the middle of the sea make them row to the mainland pick up maps to an island, have a reward challenge, then send them to their camps.

    I also think it will be a good idea to have a survivor just for kids. (so i can be on it)

    Some twists and turns…
    -6 tribes (3 canadian tribes and 3 American tribes)
    -Have the first 2 people voted out to be part of the jury
    -The person that goes to exile island miss trible council. (stop that at merge)
    -Have 24 Castaways
    -Have the hardest challenge ever
    -Hidden food package
    -3 beaches (1 Canadian tribe and 1 American tribe on one beach)
    -4 Hidden immunity idols (1 on each beach and 1 on Exile island

    I would even settle if they allowed canadians in

  8. @Dan: Hey man, cool site you’ve got there. Some neat speculation.

    @Matthew: I agree, Canadians should be allowed to compete!

  9. Now that i have seen the actual promo of survivor china im really excited. I just hope they pick contestants that WANT to play the game and who saw at least 3 seasons of survivor before going on the show, it makes a big difference in how the game plays out. Fiji was hard to wacth not only because of the unfair twist, but because survivor had contestants Lisi,Rocky,Boo,Stacy,Dremez and on occasion Mookie who completly irritated me to the point of not wanting to see the outcome of the show. There are three things i hope survivor china dosen’t have 1-Contestants that were recruited contestants found in the mall.
    2-No stupid twist of rich or poor tribe.
    3- one idol is enough

  10. Yeah i think the location will boost points for survivor china, but its the contestants that make the season. I have to agree with wonder Bread that the contestants and the twists bored the season but, at least the last tribule council had a good impact. I wonder if the contestants will be diverse like the last 2 seasons, but i think unlike survivor fiji china will foucs on the location and theme rather than the contestants.

  11. It’s not that China is desperately trying to appear modern, It’s some people are desperately curious for the “uncivilized” side of china, and therefore, the modern side of it never shows.

    I won’t be surprised if there are some “old China” shows In Survivor China. It’s not like National Geography channel has never been there. But there is nothing to hide and certainly nothing to feel ashamed about. After all, China is known for it’s great nature and culture, not its modernity.

    peace~ ^^Y

  12. @Heidi: I think people in the West crave the “uncivilized” side of China because it’s different from their own society. However, and perhaps this is biased due to the sheer amount of exposure I have to media about China, but there seems to be no lack of coverage on China’s growing modernity. However it seems to be the will of the Chinese to keep the dirtier bits from being seen.

    As for “Known for its great nature…” – huh? I’ve never heard China being famous for great nature. I mean, most mountains have stairways, most parks have had their trees removed to make room for fake trees and weird status, and most lakes and rivers are so polluted, that you can’t fish or swim in them…

  13. In the promo jeff said the contestants would have to survive the “elements and each other”.I’m thinking “elements refers to the weather and the climate of china, considering its located on sveral lakes. I think the challanges will be cool considering the theme of china. In the promo they actually showed the great wall and i wonder if they have to race across it or something in a challenge.

  14. In the promo jeff said the contestants would have to survive the “elements and each other”.I’m thinking “elements refers to the weather and the climate of china, considering its located on several lakes. I think the challanges will be cool considering the theme of china. In the promo they actually showed the great wall and i wonder if they have to race across it or something in a challenge.

  15. considering the fact that they showed the great wall in china, the huang pu/oriental pearl TV tower in shanghai… etc… i really doubt they will have the opportunity to go to all those places. of course this is a whole new ball game (hopefully!) so perhaps… they will switch locations as the group narrows down…

    i hope this works. i’ve wanted to go back to china since the day i left, so it will be fun to watch another white person eat dog or get bitten by mosquitos that make your whole foot swell up! haha. seriously, i hope it is a great season…

  16. My wife and I live in the town of Wanli, which is about 18 km from Nanchang. Survivor China should be quite interesting. The weather during July is quite hot. This is also considered the rainy season for the area. If the filming area isanything like the Lushan Mountains, the show should be a real treat. Mosquitos, heat, rain, humidity, steep mountains…..who could ask for more!

  17. 柘林湖 is rumored to be the location for the Survivor:China. Does that jive with anything you know? A fan from GQ posted on Survivor Sucks site that he’d heard about 柘林湖 being closed to the general public and we are all excited!!

    But fans here(States-side) also read about the big flood. Even though JXnews online and NangChanr Ri Bao do not talk much about this natural disaster, we are concerned for both the show and local residents. I know Ryan brings up the “uplifting way they report news” often, wonder if this is part of it? Newspapers from Taiwan and Yahoo, Google on-line report 71 deaths, over 10 mill. displaced and such on June 12th, but not a word on JX News or NanChang RiBao on June 13th? News also said for the South of JX to expect torrential rain both 13th and 14th, watch out for the flash flooding and such. But no warning is given on their official tourists site …

    And yes, Terry!! They said “at the heel of a sacred mountain”. We are thinking LuShan. Since I was born and raised in Taiwan, I probably don’t know as much as you folks living right there. But if they get to go deep in LuShan, wasn’t that where Chiang used to have his Summer villa? The one Mao took over as soon as he chased him off the mainland. I was under the impression of temps around 22C, that’s not anywhere near 90-100F as we always endured in Taipei beginning each May!

    We were informed of a press conference by the Survivor people in ShangHai around mid-June. If and when this happens, could I bother some one to please point me to the news articles? I am comfortable reading either Chinese or English. Thank you in advance.
    Ryan, hope it’s okay to “use” your comment area like this. Please let me know if this bothers you!

    Thank you for the chuckles from your Survivor packages! People are talking about them, Ryan, particularly the FLG one.

  18. All I know is man are they going to have to tip-toe their way through this one. They must have some deal that the government screens all content before it airs. I would bet money they get 1-2 episodes out there at BEST till the crackdown comes, and CBS and all the cast members are promptly handed their passports and put on the first plane home. Plus, good luck finding anywhere (well, XinJiang maybe, or Tibet, but that would never happen) that is uninhabited. Isn’t that the point of the show, to be stranded? How do you get stranded in a country the size of the continental US with 6 times the population??

  19. DISGUSTING!!! The tribes should not have been allowed to pull some Bull Sh*t like that … the people new to the tribe should have been immune for the first challenge! Or is this show self destructing???


  21. I have enjoyed the program since the begining, Sorry I cannot bring myself to watch this year because of that don’t need any money,bitch calling wicked man that you allow on the show . hate him,hatehim, hatehim. Ill see you next season or if I flip to the station and see he has been voted out.

  22. Louise, you know I’m not at all associated with Survivor, right? I really didn’t let anyone on the show. Still, Russ has a nice hat.

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