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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 6/28/02

Survivor Season One:
The Greatest and Most Outrageous Moments
2000 (2000) - CBS Video (Paramount)

review by Adam Jahnke of The Digital Bits

Survivor Season One: The Greatest and Most Outrageous Moments Film Rating: B-

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A-/A-/B+

Specs and Features

135 mins, NR, full frame (1.33:1), Amaray keep case packaging, single-sided, dual-layered (layer switch at 1:15:35, at the start of chapter 21), Survivor: Inside the Phenomenon documentary, episode summaries, Survivor profiles, The Island text feature, animated film-themed menu screens with sound, scene access (31 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1), subtitles: English, Closed Captioned

I suppose I'm risking all sorts of embarrassment by admitting this in a public forum, but I've been hooked on Survivor from Day One. I am one of the millions of people who thought that watching sixteen people compete for a million bucks by outwitting, outplaying and outlasting the others in some remote jungle hell/paradise was one of the best ways to spend an hour a week that they'd ever heard of. When Survivor went Down Under, I was there. When Survivor went to Africa, I was there (though I'm the first to admit that Survivor: Africa was pretty much a big waste of time). And just recently, when it seemed that the rest of the country was obsessing over Rachel's baby on Friends, I remained blissfully ignorant of the whole thing and tuned in for what turned out to be one of the best seasons so far, Survivor: Marquesas.

With Survivor generally credited for saving CBS's bacon, it's no surprise that a home video release was soon to follow. Bucking the trend of complete seasons in boxed set forms, CBS and Paramount have taken the first season of Survivor and re-edited it into what amounts to Survivor: The Movie. Boasting never-before-seen footage, not to mention nudity and adult language (and if you're familiar with season one, I bet you can guess whose unwanted nudity we're subjected to), the DVD does a fairly impressive job of condensing what must have been thousands of hours of footage into just over two hours. We get to know each Survivor, not just through their actions on the show but through audition tapes and interviews as well. The show's immunity and reward challenges are basically omitted, except for a montage of challenges that will probably signify nothing to you if you didn't watch the show in the first place.

Unfortunately, this has the effect of making this disc a souvenir for the show's existing fans instead of the introduction to novices it may have been intended as. I watched this disc with my wife, who became hooked on Survivor with season two. She hated this DVD, complaining that it simply made her want to know more of what happened on the island. She has a point. Survivor is a complex show of interpersonal relationships that are constantly changing. Sometimes you need to see how an argument back in episode three comes back to get somebody voted off the island in episode ten. It's the melodrama that makes the show worth watching. Of course, I'd be beyond surprised if anybody decided to release complete season-by-season boxed sets of what is essentially a glorified game show. As it is, hardcore Survivor fans will likely enjoy this presentation a lot more than the merely curious.

Paramount's done a very nice job bringing Survivor to DVD. It certainly looks and sounds a lot more impressive than it did when I watched it the first time around. The show is comprised from a wide variety of footage and betrays the limitations of the formats. The audition tapes were basically shot on home video and there's not much anybody's going to be able to do to make them look and sound terrific. But, by and large, the picture is surprisingly crisp and colorful. I was stunned that the audio track was Dolby Digital 5.1 surround. It's all location sound so don't expect lots of fancy effects, but the hokey-but-effective music sounds pretty impressive in 5.1.

The bonus features are quite extensive, surprisingly so for a Paramount release. Survivor: Behind the Phenomenon is a great little documentary if you like the show, with producer Mark Burnett and host Jeff Probst (arguably the most underrated host on TV and, I believe, the backbone of Survivor) showing us how it's done through interviews and behind-the-scenes footage. The rest of the extras are text-based, with episode summaries, a map of Pilau Tiga (with information on the island's terrain, wildlife and climate) and ridiculously exhaustive Survivor profiles. If you've always wondered about Rudy's favorite movie or Rich's favorite color, you'll find out here.

Survivor on DVD is essentially a superfluous exercise, existing only to milk a few more dollars out of CBS's reigning cash cow. It isn't news. It's not a documentary. It sure isn't art. It's disposable entertainment at its best. Having said that, it's admirable that Paramount put some time and effort into this package, making a DVD that looks and sounds pretty darn good and delivers some worthwhile bonuses to boot. Besides, there's absolutely nothing wrong with disposable entertainment. I wouldn't recommend making this the centerpiece of your DVD library but if you were a fan of season one, it's worth taking a trip back to the beach.

Adam Jahnke
[email protected]

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