Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Segregated Survivor -- why didn't I think of that

When I read CBS was going to separate the "tribes" in Survivor by race (white, black, Latino and Asian,) I was taken aback.

"They're allowed to do that !?!" I wondered.

Keep in mind the first time I heard there was a show called Wife Swap I incorrectly assumed it was a PG-13 version of the 70's leisure activity and not only wasn't I surprised, but I wondered why it had taken them so long to come up with the idea.

Although when I really thought about Survivor's new format, I realized that it shouldn't have surprised me either. Survivor had already comprised tribes by sex and age. Why, after 13 seasons of separating people into teams, wouldn't Survivor give racial division a try? I guess the strength of my initial reaction is indicative of how difficult it is for people in America to deal with race.

CBS's decision to go with the sure-to-be controversial format was blasted by many a prominent columnist and editorial page for being "divisive" and a "ratings ploy."

A ratings ploy? Of course. But I tend to think all of television is a rating ploy -- or at least the television that is trying to stay on TV is.

As for divisive . . . I guess it could be.

But is it any more divisive than the World Basketball Championship or the Little League World Series that have been all over the tube lately? Because every time I catch one of those competitions I see a team of one race competing against team of another race -- yet the streets of America remain peaceful.

My favorite criticism so far has come from a New York city councilmen named John Liu who called for CBS to drop the show and declared "the idea of having a battle of the races is preposterous."

John Liu is Asian. Asians are only 4.2 percent of the general population and maybe 1 percent of the faces on television. Yet, with this new segregated formula, the Asians get to be 25 percent of the contestants on what could be the number one hit of the season. I'm thinking a lot of Asians are pretty happy about this. I'm also thinking the political counter-intuitiveness Mr. Liu is showing here might be what makes the halls of government the only place in America where it is more unusual to see an Asian than on television.

In more good news for the Asians, one online gambling website has listed them as the
favorites to win. Another has installed the whites as the race to beat.

I imagine it would be difficult to bet on Survivor because you don't actually know what events the contestants are going to be competing in until the show airs. If you were able to learn the roster of challenges in advance, this season would present an opportunity for racial handicapping so intriguing I might even be convinced to violate my strict no-gambling policy and give it a go.

But you aren't. Although I do have a little bit of information I can pass along to those degenerates who can't help but wager blind and on reality TV. Just yesterday, in an upset, the white team
beat the Asian team to win the Little League World Series. Adjust your betting accordingly.

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