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.

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

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