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8 reasons Survivor has survived for 16 years

Randi Mazzella is a mother of three and freelance writer.  She has written extensively about parenting, family life and teen issues. 

Why Survivor has been so successful for so long

I discovered the show Survivor. I know, that is a big claim to make, but it is true — at least as far as my family and friends are concerned. I began watching when the show premiered in the summer of 2000 and was immediately hooked. The concept, the cast and the crazy challenges — it all had me riveted to my television. I urged my family and friends to watch too so we could all discuss it. They did, and they thanked me for turning them on to this fantastic show.

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We weren’t the only ones watching. Survivor was the first reality game show, and it changed the face of television. The show was the surprise hit of that summer, and it received lots of media buzz as well as water-cooler chatter. After 32 seasons, I am still watching Survivor. While most shows lose their relevance and audience, Survivor remains a hit, still consistently winning its Wednesday 8:00 p.m. time slot.

How has Survivor survived on television for so long?

1. Staying true to the concept

To win Survivor, players need to “outplay, outwit and outlast” their opponents. In the original season, 16 castaways were taken to a remote island for a 39-day adventure. The cast was divided into two tribes. They had to survive the elements while competing in mental and physical challenges. Each week, there was a tribal council where a player was voted off the island. About half the voted-off cast would become the “jury,” and they would get to decide which of the final two contestants would be awarded the title of sole Survivor. 32 seasons later, the overall concept has not changed.

2. Keeping it fresh

While the concept itself is the same, the producers of Survivor continually do things to keep the show fresh and interesting. The locales change every season, as do the challenges. They have various casting themes including playing with a loved one, dividing the tribes by age and seasons where some or all of the cast members are returning players. The twists are just enough to add to the excitement without changing the overall game.

3. Jeff Probst

Jeff Probst has been uttering the phrases, “Survivors ready?” “Wanna know what you are playing for?” and “The tribe has spoken,” since the show started. As host and executive producer, he is an integral part of the show’s continued success.

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4. Incredible challenges

Survivor takes their challenges seriously on land and in the ocean. Even simple challenges like balancing on a pole or doing a puzzle become more complicated when you add in the fact that contestants haven’t eaten or slept well or taken a shower in days. Could I do a puzzle if I hadn’t slept in a week? Maybe. But could I eat a maggot to win my team a tarp and blanket? I highly doubt it, but people do.

5. Great casting

Every season, I am amazed at how awesome the cast is. There is always a great combination of people I love, people I hate and people I love to hate. Bringing together so many types of different people with different life experiences and having them interact and rely on each other is part of what makes the show so intriguing.

6. Social dynamics

In the beginning, it seemed like the show was about surviving the elements. Who could last the longest through the hot sun, dehydration, bug bites and more. But the show is more about who can handle being in those harsh conditions and still get along with others while masterminding a way to win the game. Remember, the ultimate Survivor has to vote everyone out and then get those same people they betrayed to vote for them to win a million dollars.

7. Various types of strategies

The more years Survivor is on, the more strategic the players get. The strategy is different for every player. Some rely on their athleticism while others focus on their interpersonal skills. Contestants may try to win every challenge or deliberately lose to avoid the choices that sometimes come with winning rewards. There is no one approach to become the ultimate Survivor.

8. Real emotions

Being removed from your family, friends and daily comforts leads to a volatility of emotions. Viewers watch people, many of whom have ordinary lives at home, test their inner strength. It is a great show to watch as a family because it demonstrates what that people may be capable of things they never thought possible.

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