Survivor Dish

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Monday, September 11, 2006

Probst Weighs In

BARBARA BINSTEIN: Knight Ridder Tribune

Sept. 8, 2006, 10:11AM
Survivor host urges critics to watch before complaining

New York Daily News

Survivor host Jeff Probst urged naysayers of the new, ethnically divided edition of the reality show to give it time before putting it down.

CBS and Survivor producer Mark Burnett came under fire recently when it was revealed that the contestants for Survivor: Cook Islands would be divided into four teams by race.

"A lot of people who have never seen Survivor have absolutely no idea what they're condemning and using this as a platform," Probst told reporters Thursday.

"Those opinions of people criticizing us for doing this are valid and fair," Probst said. "All I'm saying is, you have to recognize you're condemning a show before you've seen it, and that's not fair or just."

In the past, Survivor had been knocked for not offering up ethnically diverse casts. So, when the creative team behind the show got together to plan this season, they decided to make sure the cast was ethnically diverse.

It was through the casting process — and talking to the potential contestants — that the decision was made to at the start split the teams into ethnic groups. "We actually felt that dividing them ethnically was a positive idea, because it came from our discussions in casting, and we kept coming up with the same theme, which was ethnic pride," he said.

"When you're talking with a group of white people, it doesn't come up," he said. "White people are mutts, we're just white, we don't have any ethnicity we hold on to."

Probst wouldn't say how long it would be before the teams are split and mixed — a standard practice on Survivor.

An overwhelming majority of the people who apply to Survivor through traditional channels are white, according to Probst. That required the casting staff to look outside of the normal places.

"Once we decided we were going to have the most ethnically diverse cast in the history of TV, it required us to go out and find these people," he said. "It was the biggest casting endeavor we've done in 13 seasons."

For instance, one of the contestants was found through a contact at a Korean beauty pageant in Seattle.

"What we found was the most fresh cast of people we've had going back to season one," he said. "We're finding people who aren't Survivor savvy."

As a result, Probst said Burnett decided to go back to the type of opening they started with the very first Survivor, where the players are on a ship and must grab what supplies they can before going into the water.

CBS is not releasing any portions of the show to critics before Thursday's telecast.

"We're hoping people will watch the show," Probst said. "There's a certain level of mystery. We don't want to spoil the surprise."


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