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Monday, August 21, 2000

Welcome to the Claire Bickley Chat

jr: will rudy win?

Claire Bickley: You'll have to come back at 1 p.m. to get the answer.

Carl: Hi Claire. Do you think part of "Survivor's" success is that it aired during the dog days of summer, rather than in the fall or winter when all the new prime time shows are on?

Claire Bickley: I do think that the level of Survivor's ratings has a lot to do with it being on in the off-season. We'll see when Survivor II debuts in January when all of the new shows are on and everybody's favorite returning shows are airing original episodes. On the other hand, it might be nice to watch the Australian summer while we're in the midst of winter. As usual, the U.S. TV networks will beat this reality TV concept at least one season after it stops working.

Remo Williams: It seems to me, that the Survivor show is not about who can survive the elements and challenges.. but it's about you can wheel and deal and swindle their way to the prize money. Do you think that this was the original premise for the show or just one it's many weird developments?

Claire Bickley: I do think that was the original but secret plan for the show. In other words, it was producer Mark Burnett's expectation, hope and plan all along that the contestants would turn on each other. But even he and CBS understood that it would be just too crass to state it bluntly at the beginning, so instead they presented it as some sort of meritorious competition.

Terry: What would you tell the producers to change for "Survivor II" in Australia next year?

Claire Bickley: I would tell them to feed Jeff Probst to a crocodile and heavily promote that episode in advance. They would get a bigger rating than the final M*A*S*H.

Marcie: Hi Claire: What do think will be the next big "reality" hit?

Claire Bickley: I think one show that has potential for high ratings as well as utter irresponsibility and moral bankruptcy is the one coming from ABC and being made by actors Ben Affleck and Matt Damon in which viewers are asked to try apprehend a 'fugitive' travelling across the U.S. Expect Americans to interpret 'apprehend' as 'by any means necessary.' Subtitle that show Somebody's Gonna Get Hurt.


Claire Bickley: Funny odd or funny ha ha? On both counts, I'd have to go with Richard and his freaky wiggly Ed Grimley immunity dance.

Liz: Why is "Survivor" so much more popular than "Big Brother" in your opinion?


Claire Bickley: Liz? Liz Braun? Geez, I sit next to you and I'll be back downstairs in a minute. I told you never to call me here. But seriously, Big Brother is in a house in Studio City. No-one wants to live in a house in Studio City filled with hideous Swedish furniture. Most of us wouldn't mind spending a month on a beach.

Star: who do you think is going to win Rudy,Rich,Sue or Kelly?????

Claire Bickley: I'm betting on Rudy for several reasons: A) He's right in CBS' viewer demographic, and that of most of its advertisers. B) The show is sponsored by the US Army. Duh. C) The man's human beef jerky. He can survive anything. D) He'll be considered the lesser of whatever other evil the final jury is presented with. E) Mark Burnett is afraid that Rudy will send after him all those friends back in the States who deal with people who betray him that he's always muttering about.

Tony: Claire: What's your success rate in guessing each week's castaway? (Be honest now).

Claire Bickley: My rate has been okay. I was dead-on guessing that Greg would get kicked off the week that CBS posted that in advance of the show. Does that count? Notably, I didn't see Gretchen's ouster coming. I thought the week Jenna got kicked off was obvious from the way the show was edited. I was split between Kelly and Sean last week but was leaning towards Sean getting the hook.

Wayne: Claire You are one reporter that actually seems to enjoy Survivor, as many of us do. Why do you think many people, reporters included, seem to make fun of the show? Could it be they are embarassed by the fact they could actually like reality based TV and therefore try to take the "high road"?

Claire Bickley: Wayne - Here's something you need to never forget. We reporters are generally just embarrassed about that all of the time. Specifically regarding Survivor, which requires reporters to work at night, you introduce an added level of resentment. My cats and I have actually enjoyed watching it. My husband, on the other hand, has no idea who Rudy, Rich etc even are. That would be why I married him. Also, he looks much better naked than Richard. But I digress. I think there are legitimate criticisms to be levelled at Survivor and I think we all know what they are. I think you then have to move beyond them and have a good nasty down and dirty superfine summertime watch.

Mike Hunt, Toronto: Regarding the Survivor Season Finale..What possible "spoilers" have you heard about through the grapevine?

Claire Bickley: There are a zillion theories out there, including: Susan didn't win because she's been seen still hauling cement. I reject this because I think hauling cement is what Susan does for fun. Richard will lose because he was disrespectful of a snake in one episode and has displeased the snake Gods. I thought Richard was the Snake God. Rudy seems to have the edge in the on-line betting pools. Rival network ABC is also picking Rudy to win. But they also predicted that it would be a Rudy vs Gervase finale. The North Carolina law enforcement community is rooting for Kelly to claim the prize, go on a national publicity tour, forget that they have a warrant for her arrest and visit N.C., so they can slam her butt in jail.

TYRONE SHOELACES: Has anyone noticed how similar reality TV is to the scenario in the movie Network?

Claire Bickley: Network has long since outlived its status as a satire in many ways, from the network news business to tabloid shows to primetime. Try this easy test at home: Rent Network and screen it for a teenager. They will think it's a documentary.

CLEM: Hey Claire, If the Toronto Sun entertainment department was the Survivor game, who would win?

Claire Bickley: I would have to be as dim as Dr. Sean to answer that question. Call me later.

Anonymous: Hey Claire, is that Bill Brioux as handsome as his picture? Is he really an ex-Navy SEAL?

Claire Bickley: Bill Brioux is in fact as handsome as one of those blow-up sea monsters your kids play with in the pool. No, seriously, if Bill was on Survivor, every immunity challenge would be an old TV trivia quiz. And it wouldn't be young Greg who was setting up the sugar shack on the island.

JoAnne (T.O): I like Survivor lots. Why do u think it is doing so well? Who is/was your favorite castaway?

Claire Bickley: I think the reasons Survivor is so popular include: It's summertime. There's nothing else on. Babes in bikinis. Fat gay guy. Waiting to see if the contestants kill and eat Jeff Probst. And seriously, because people do find parallels between the show and their own lives, from high school to workplace dynamics to Thanksgiving Dinner with the family. Like I said, I can't really discuss the Toronto Sun Entertainment Department online but ....

CLEM: What role did the web play in the popularity of the show

Claire Bickley: I think the web played a huge role in Survivor's success. One non-scientific way of measuring this myself was the massive amount of e-mails I got from people outside of the Sun's paper readership base. Also, whenever a new spoiler or mistake happened on-line, I'd get tons of e-mails, calls and even faxes about it within minutes. I think the show's twists and turns appealed to those of us who also scan the Web for conspiracy stuff. I think survivorsucks.com particularly rocked throughout the show's run.

Petey-Boy: Hey there......do you think you could last 39 days? Well....

Claire Bickley: Listen, Petey my pal, Physically, I could go the distance. I once spent four weeks on a trek to Mt. Everest with a small group of people who had, let's say, some eccentricities. Nobody murdered each other. (Unless that altitude sickness thing was a cover-up.) Whether I would be voted off by my fellow castaways is another question. I'm pretty outspoken and blunt. (sort of a 45% Rudy-personality, but without the gay-bashing.)

ZEEK: Is there anyone from the survivor gang who might actually translate the show into some kind of career

Claire Bickley: Yes and no. I believe they will (and already are) going to try and capitalize on it. But I don't think it will last very long unless they've really got the goods. For example, Jenna wants to be an actress. Somebody will surely put her in something - a guest spot on a TV series or some other gimmick - or maybe even cast her in a movie. But it's not going to happen twice if she has no talent. Richard, who is a corporate trainer, will make money forever using Survivor as a metaphor for corporate life in his seminars. Sean, the one who most wants to be famous, may find that that not only doesn't happen but people are a little hesitant in becoming his medical patients after having watched him on the show. Ironically, Colleen, the most appealing Survivor is also the one who has no interest in spinning it into something so far. Rudy is 72. But will likely be stuffed and kept on display in a military museum when that time comes.

Carly in Toronto: Okay folks...enough SUN PAPER questions -- they should all be shipped away. Get back to the real deal: SURVIVOR. How real is this -- or is it really staged? Claire...please answer this one. ;)

Claire Bickley: Carly, Don't you know that a) journalists are interested in nothing as much as themselves, and b) My colleagues downstairs are apparently not having a very busy day. Sorry. As to whether the show is staged or to what degree, it's hard to say. Producer Mark Burnett has said that every 48-minute episode is edited down from about 100 hours of actual footage, so obviously they're skewing it for their own purposes, to create a narrative, to mislead/lead viewers to conclusions they want them to reach and to emphasize and simplify the personalities/actions of the contestants. (I don't really think Richard is The Son of Satan. Maybe just a nephew.) Some of the stuff has been very obviously staged, such as last week's trip to that "bar" for Kelly. I've also heard things about Burnett intervening in the proceedings. For example, there's a story about that when the two tribes combined, they chose different members than Jenna and Sean to be the tribes' ambassadors and he made them switch it. On the other hand, I do not think that the contestants are "actors" as some extremists have suggested and, while their behaviour may be being shown in the worst or best light depending on the producers' aims, some truth about their natures must be making it through.

Pepe: Who would you rather sleep with: Rudy, Richard, Sue or Kelley?

Claire Bickley: Um, in what order? I have seen enough of Richard naked to last forever. Not Rudy because he seems like one of those men who likes to talk in bed. I'm praying that Sue and Kelly will embrace their true natures at the last minute and live happily ever after. So I guess the answer is, none of the above.

Rudy: Claire, any advice on how to invest a million dollars? Just curious.

Claire Bickley: Dear Rudy - Is now the time to tell you I find you handsome as well as taciturn? I will meet you at the airport Thursday morning. xoxox Claire

Claire Bickley: That's it. I'm off the island and headed back to life among the Sun rats and grubs. Thanks for chatting, Claire

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