Survivor showdown: Is Survivor US bigger, brasher and better than NZ?
"I want to lather myself in the blood of my enemies."
That's not what you want to hear from someone you're about to spend six weeks with on a remote island. But that was the opening line from one contestant in Survivor: Game Changers (weekdays, 4.25pm, Three).
Yep, here we are in the midst of Survivor NZ (Sundays, 7pm and Mondays, 7.30pm, TVNZ 2) and suddenly there's another group of people skulking around in the undergrowth whispering about each other. But these ones are from the USA.
For those of you that have never stumbled across Survivor in some form, it's the reality survival equivalent of X Factor. The format chucks a group of people somewhere remote and divides them into two tribes. Then as the weeks wind down, contestants take part in challenges and vote off members of their tribe. There's much talk of alliances and strategic voting and people lie, cheat and backstab to get what they want. It's been running for years and has been franchised from Pakistan to Poland.
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In the US version, they like big hype. It's a blur of tough talk, whooping and air-punching. To be fair, these "game-changers" have all competed in previous series so they know what's expected and it's not humility.
By contrast, Survivor NZ presenter Matt Chisholm asked Kiwi contestants about their strengths in the opening episode and was met mostly with some tentative hands going up in the air and a bit of mumbling. They seem a more modest bunch and that's not a bad thing.
Sure some of them play a tougher game. Like sneaky Izzy who blatantly stole items from the rival tribe in episode one. But she felt so bad that she ended up giving them a knife back anyway.
And the game itself is a different level. In the opening episode of Survivor: Game Changers, they had to dive off a boat, swim to a life raft and untie knots under water to release a toolkit. Then they had to transport everything to the island by raft. But there's a $1 million at stake, so they don't want it too easy I guess.
In the first episode of Survivor NZ, where the prize is $100,000, competitors had to grab useful items from a rowing boat pulled up on the beach and put them on their tribe's mat about 10 feet away.
So, yes, the Americans have done it bigger and brasher. Better? Well, it depends on your criteria. The trouble with the series – aside from the horrible idea of rewarding people for behaving appallingly – is that it's pretty boring. There's endless wandering around in the bushes talking about who is going to vote for who. But nearly everyone lies and changes their mind, so nothing they say really matters.
And even the challenges don't really add to the interest. A recent NZ one involved contestants standing. Sure it was on footholds on walls. But still, it was people standing. For 45 minutes.
There are so many better things to watch.