Such is the curiosity of American TV audiences that millions find a guilty pleasure in sitting down to watch what happens to a person in the course of a one-hour show.
The idea of having a taped, scripted show became almost passé with the event of “reality TV” a few years back. Huge ratings confirmed that America liked to watch real people endure real-life trials and tribulations.
CBS, the network behind Survivor, is now under fire for reenacting and cutting scenes to make the “reality TV” game show more interesting.
On Monday, Fox Broadcasting Co. alleged in court papers that CBS fixed the outcome of contestant voting on Survivor. Fox’s accusation was made in response to a federal copyright infringement lawsuit filed last month by CBS and Survivor producers that alleged Fox’s Boot Camp is a rip-off of Survivor.
Fox based its accusation on a lawsuit filed by former Survivor cast member Stacey Stillman, who alleged that the show is rigged, resulting in her being voted off the island.
On Tuesday, The New York Times reported that segments of Survivor: The Australian Outback were reenacted to give them a more TV-friendly look. According to the Times, producer Mark Burnett does not deny having re-shot scenes for the show.
“I absolutely couldn’t care less – I’m making great television,” he told the Times.
CBS defended Burnett on Wednesday.
“The camera-work in question did not affect the contestants, the challenges or anything consequential,” CBS spokeswoman Michelle Hooper told Hollywood.com. “We didn’t want the viewer to be distracted by cameras, so we cleaned up the footage. Nothing that was re-shot had any impact on the outcome. Basically, it’s all a lot of hoopla.”
CBS did not comment Thursday about Fox’s accusations. CBS spokesman Chris Ender, however, denied Fox’s accusation to Variety.
Fox did not return a call for comment.
If Burnett or CBS does not care about a reality show that allegedly creates reality, Stillman does. In February, she sued CBS, claiming that the show was rigged, costing her a fair chance at the prize money. The Survivor producers counter-sued, saying Stillman had signed an agreement to not disclose show secrets in her lawsuit or press interviews.
When it comes to editing scenes for the game show, former Survivor: The Australian Outback contestant Kimmi Kappenberg told Hollywood.com on Wednesday that some things were taken out of context, but that the network edited scenes to show more drama.
During one of the reward challenges, Kappenberg was in charge of taking care of chickens inside a cage. After noticing that they were laying eggs, Kappenberg urged the cast to eat the eggs instead of the animals, for the eggs had more protein, she said.
In the edited version that aired, she said, the audience was led to believe that the vegetarian was attached to the chickens and protesting their death. She said she was trying to make the point that if the cast ate the eggs, instead of feeding off the animals, their food supply would last longer.
“It would have been nice if [CBS] would have shown our personalities more,” Kappenberg said. “But they never showed the other side.”
Survivor is “almost like a zoo exhibit,” said Kappenberg, who was voted off the show at the end of the series’ fifth episode.
Kappenberg said that even though the cameras are always there, after a while they go unnoticed and don’t even become an issue. Most of the time, she says, the group was trying to figure out how to get food. Being on camera was the least of their expectations, she said.
The network uses 72 hours worth of tape for a 42-minute show, she said.