Ahead of a press conference scheduled for next week, CBS Television today announced a half-season order of the hit show Survivor, this time to take place in the United States, and being released as Survivor: Ebola. Jeff Probst, host of the Survivor series since its original premiere in 2000, will return after completing experimental treatments at an Atlanta hospital. As it has in the past, CBS generally orders half-seasons of its successful reality television offerings instead of full ones. That way, the network can better organize its fall, spring, and summer schedules.
The order comes as no surprise to industry experts, but the change of location does. “No season of Survivor has ever been shot stateside,” notes critic Tevi Guyd. “And with the new iterations enhanced sense of danger, it’s a bold move by the network and the production company to move to a local location, especially Texas.” Filming has already been underway for sometime in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, including recently publicized location shoots at a Dallas hospital.
When the fall television season gets underway, the major networks program new shows and axe old ones almost as fast as an apocalyptic contagion. “Good thing the new series spread as quickly as it did last year,” says executive producer Mark Burnett. “Within mere days, our Nielsen ratings went through the roof! It was as if you’d stuck a thermometer in someone’s mouth, and they had a fever, and the mercury broke the glass. Like in one of the old cartoons.”
“Our numbers were higher than they’d ever been in the last ten years,” says Probst from behind a CDC quarantine in Dallas. “We were worried that, with ratings plummeting and advertisers bailing on us, we were dead in the water. We weren’t sure if the show had run its course, or if audiences had become immune to us. All this recent success is due to Mark’s ingenuity.”
“He’s being too nice,” says Burnett. “Jeff is a hell of a guy, and a world-class reality show host. I can’t think of anyone else we’d rather risk sacrificing to this new Ebola epidemic than him.” All gesturing aside, Survivor: Ebola owes its infectious popularity to Burnett’s quick thinking. Inspired by local news report from Guinea in late 2013, the television mogul sent a crew to scout the west African country for leads. When all except one of the party’s members made it back to New York unscathed by the trip and was cleared by the CDC, Burnett knew he had a hit in the making. “I simply did what anyone else in my profession would do,” he finally admits. “I pounced.” And pounce he did.
Like its predecessors, Survivor: Ebola pits 16 contestants against each other in a two-tribe format, and against one another in a “survival of the fittest” mentality. Not only will they be fighting against one another and the threat of infection, but they will also be dealing with their ill-conceived notions of Ebola. The only contestant to have any medical experience is Dr. Casey Schuler of Houston, Texas.
“I can’t believe all the action happening for this season we’re shooting now,” Probst says. “Fans of both Survivor and the Ebola virus itself are going to be getting a special treat come next year!”
Survivor: Ebola is set to air in January on CBS.