16 castaways, 39 days, and a grand prize of one million dollars
by Gerry Brown
This article was posted on July 10, 2000.
Who wants to be a millionaire? That's what the 16 castaways on CBS's runaway 2000 summer hit Survivor were forced to ask themselves before agreeing to be "stranded" on Pulau Tiga in Malaysia for up to 39 days. The reality-TV-meets-game show was a huge hit and took the game show phenomenon, spawned by Regis Philbin's Who Wants to be a Millionaire? to a whole new level.
Two tribes, lots of challenges
For anyone without a clue about pop culture, here's the premise of the show, which was adapted from a similar European TV program. The 16 people are separated into two eight-person tribes and get put on the tropical island in the South China Sea with sparse supplies.
The contestants must hunt and gather most of their food (they are provided with a supply of white rice and fresh water) and every three days they meet with the other tribe for what is called an "immunity challenge." The challenges are some sort of physical race usually involving water or the woods. The tribe that wins the challenge gets "immunity" for the next three days while the losers must go to "tribal council" and vote one of their members off the island.
When the 16 contestants have been whittled down to two people, the previously eliminated castaways gather and vote on who should receive the million-dollar prize. There are smaller cash prizes for each contestant varying from $2500 for the first person voted off to $100,000 for the runner-up.
The show was broadcast on network television, although the actual contest was over and the million-dollar winner had been determined. But CBS made us wait through the 13-week run of the show to find out the winner.
Some viewers organized pools to pick the winner, and the show inspired several TV commercial parodies or tributes.