Who’ll Be the Next Richard Hatch?

It’s a long way til Super Bowl Sunday, but CBS execs — God bless them — are finally giving tube watchers a little something to fight their collective withdrawal.

And no, we ain’t talking about football. For to our TV nation, there exists a certain phenomenon much more inexplicably addictive than sports, and it is called “Survivor: The Australian Outback.”

Yes. After much media hype and requisite hush-hush, the Eye Network has unveiled this morning the 16 contestants on the sequel to its uber-bankable reality series, which debuts after the Super Bowl on Jan. 28.

The breakdown is as follows: Eight men and eight women (three of them married) ranging from a young pup at age 22 to a more seniorly age 53.

In terms of their occupations, there is an administrative assistant, two bartenders, a chef, a singer-songwriter, a Harvard law student, a personal trainer, an Army intelligence officer, an auto customizer, a corrections officer, a retired cop, a footware designer, a software publisher, an Internet project manager, a part-time nurse/homemaker and a farmer/teacher.

Taping of the Australia-set show was completed long before its air date, with the million-dollar winner and losers already determined. But those facts alone never stopped an average 28 million viewers from getting hooked on the first “Survivor.” If anything, the measures to keep the outcome secret egged viewers (not to mention naysayers, speculators and spoilers) on even more.

And judging from fan reactions, reception to “Survivor 2” is going to be just as contentious, if not ratings-sweeping, as the network would hope.

“[I] caught a tantalizing glimpse of the new contestants for “Survivor 2: The Outback” on ‘The Early Show’ this morning. They’ve got a couple hot guys this time … more babes than the last ‘Survivor’…,” one netizen wrote in the Deja.com chat room alt.musi.yes.

Another netizen contested.

“What’s the point of seeing them before the show airs?” the chat roomer said. “Part of the fun was watching the show unfold and the ‘characters’ come out of their shells. Having preconceived notions about who these people are seems to ruin some of the enjoyment.”

Either way, before you know it the nation will soon be addressing these televised 16 by their first names and know their idiosyncrasies by heart.

So take out your pen and paper. Here are their profiles:

Rodger Bingham — 53, married, from Crittenden, Ky. Rodger is a teacher and also a self-described workaholic.

Amber Brkich — 22, single, from Beaver, Pa. Amber is currently working as an administrative assistant. Among her many favorite activities are dancing, going out with her friends and ex-sorority sisters and just plain having fun.

Nick Brown — 23, single, from Steilacoom, Wash. Nick is in his second year at Harvard Law School and hopes to become an Army officer after graduation. As he tells it, he is compassionate, incisive and ambitious.

Alicia Calaway — 32, single, from New York. Alicia is a personal trainer who describes herself as charismatic, competent and passionate.

Colby Donaldson — 26, single, from Dallas. Colby is a custom auto designer and builder who describes himself as imaginative, dedicated and flexible.

Maralyn Hershey — 51, single, from Wakefield, Va. Maralyn is a retired police officer who describes herself as determined, dramatic and multi-faceted. And oh, she was one of the first women officers to be assigned to walking the beat.

Debb Eaton — 45, single, from Milan, N.H. Debb is a corrections officer at a men’s prison. Besides a son working as a Marine sergeant in China, Debb also has an outgoing, athletic and determined attitude toward life.

Elizabeth Filarski — 23, single, from Boston. Elizabeth is a footwear designer who describes herself as impulsive, intuitive and devoted.

Keith Famie — 40, divorced, from West Bloomfield, Mich. Keith is a chef and restaurateur — or in other words, a cook who owns his own restaurant. Much like his cohorts, he says that he is creative, adventurous and passionate.

Kel Gleason — 32, single, from Fort Hood, Texas. Kel is an Intelligence Officer in the U.S. Army. Unlike the others, he didn’t offer a self-description. But if it’s at all telling, Gel likes to camp, fish and kayak with his dad.

Kimmi Kappenberg — 28, single, from Ronkonkoma, N.Y. Kimmi is a bartender (no, not the bar in “Coyote Ugly”) in the Big Apple who likes to think of herself as spontaneous, outgoing and creative.

Jerri Manthey — 30, single, from Los Angeles. Like Kimmi, Jerri is also a bartender, but in her case, an aspiring actress as well. She would like people to know that she is adventurous, fun loving and spontaneous.

Mitchell Olson — 23, single, from Union City, N.J. Mitchell is an aspiring singer/songwriter who describes himself as witty, outgoing and sexy — albeit tongue-in-cheekly. For sure, Mitchell will stand high above everyone else since he is 7 feet tall.

Michael Skupin — 38, married, from White Lake, Mich. Michael is the president of a software publishing company that he founded. He says that he is adventurous, a thrill seeker and a risk taker.

Jeff Varner — 34, single, from New York. Jeff is an Internet project manager who describes himself as provocative, energetic and competitive.

Tina Wesson — 40, married, from Knoxville, Tenn. Tina is a part-time nurse and a full-time mom. Her self-description: happy, content, adventurous, outgoing and very much in love.

Let the backstabbing and bickering begin.

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