Comparing The Real World and Survivor
While MTV's The Real World places twenty-somethings in unique arrangements in which to live as they would like for several months, CBS's Survivor elicits peculiar behavior from contestants living in unusual circumstances. Despite fundamental differences, the continued success of both The Real World and Survivor illustrates that American viewers love to watch reality television shows with interesting locales, competitions or tasks, and natural personal relations.
In contrast to shows with static settings, The Real World and Survivor have perennially situated their casts in (varied) fascinating locations. The opportunity for viewers to vicariously experience unfamiliar milieus has proven an enticing element upon which both shows have consistently relied and improved. In the midst of a programming lineup dominated by sub/urban shows, CBS debuted Survivor in May of 2000 with the aim of replicating the 1997 success of Sweden?s Expedition Robinson (named after Robinson Crusoe) . Instead of presenting viewers with Hollywood?s America, the first Survivor took place on the island of Puala Tiga in the South China Sea, though the location was not initially disclosed. Part of Survivor?s initial appeal was undoubtedly its exotic yet real setting that substantially differed from all viewers? surroundings. Survivor?s featuring American participants, not characters, with whom audiences can identify creates a vicarious viewing experience: unlike documentary programs on Discovery Channel or Travel Channel that showcase locales in their natural states, Americans? presence eliminates the socio-geographic isolation of foreign environments. Likely capitalizing on Americans? temporary interest in Australia via the Olympics, CBS set the second Survivor in the Outback the same year as the (calendar-inverted) Summer Olympics. This wise setting decision employed viewers? virtual orientation of Down Under to continue audiences? (virtual) exploration of the foreign continent. CBS continually satisfies audiences? desire for the unfamiliar by varying the location of Survivor: past seasons have invaded Kenya?s African Savannah; the French Polynesian island of Marquesas; Tarutao National Marine Park in the Satun Province of Thailand, in the Andaman Sea; the Amazon Rain Forest, near Brazil?s Rio Negro; the Pearl Islands of Panama. Survivor formulaically entices viewers with remote and foreign locations, showing Americans parts of the world wholly ignored by mainstream television.
In contrast to the exotic locales of Survivor, The Real World illustrates audiences? interest in real (predominately American) cities. The pioneer of the current incarnation of Reality TV tested whether a show could intrigue viewers with real instead of fictitious settings: now in its 14th season, The Real World has proven that audiences enjoy viewing the real world through their televisions rather than...