How Do You Like Your Rat Prepared?

HOLLYWOOD, May 31, 2000 – Maybe they should have called it “Who Wants To Be A Sun-Stroked, Malaria-Stricken, Snake-Bitten, Unbathed, Humiliated Millionaire?” Instead, they called it “Survivor,” and in case you haven’t heard, it’s a new “gameshow” in which 16 strangers are deposited on a tropical island near the equator, where they fend off disease, diarrhea and deadly animals for 39 days (with cameras in tow, of course). It premieres tonight at 8 p.m. (EDT/PDT) -– surprisingly, not on Fox, but on CBS.

Here’s the fun part: The object of the game is to win $1 million, and to do that, you have to be the last one standing when the supply of rats runs out. You pretend to like your castaway teammates, but every three days there’s a vote to kick one person off the island, and you’re sure as heck not gonna kick yourself off. Bickering and back-stabbing ensues. It’s “Gilligan’s Island” meets “The Real World” meets “Jerry Springer.”

“Gilligan’s Island” Except that Gilligan had the Professor, who kept the castaways happy with makeshift creature comforts. And he had Mary Ann and her coconut-cream pie. But this ain’t no three-hour tour, and these guys are lucky if the producers throw them a can of dog food, or maybe tuna. Otherwise, it’s bugs and snakes and rodents.

One contestant tells Newsweek that he made varmint traps out of bamboo.

“I ate a couple of rats. You just skin them, gut them, put them on the stick. They were pretty good. I was surprised. They tasted like chicken. … I lost 15 to 20 pounds. You could just see it in everyone’s faces, bones sticking out where they shouldn’t be.”

There are rules, of course. It’s against the rules to form a secret pact with the other contestants to choose a winner and split the prize money.

It’s also against the rules to eat an endangered animal (not that they’d taste better than rats anyway).

What kind of person would subject themselves to such a challenge? The first group of contestants includes a 30-year-old neurologist, a pre-school teacher and mother, and a basketball coach, all of whom are in their 30s. There’s also a 72-year-old ex-Navy SEAL who, according to what we’ve been reading, spends a lot of time whipping his gutless compadres into shape.

It’s too bad the (still-alive) members of the “Gilligan’s Island” cast won’t be reassembled for a celebrity edition of “Survivor,” just like they did on “Millionaire” a few weeks ago. If he were stuck on this island, odds are the Professor would use his smarts to make a boat and get the hell off.