Survivor: The Official Companion BOOK review [Mark Burnett]

Book Reviews
Survivor: The Official Companion BOOK review [Mark Burnett]
Dec 15, 2000, 03:39

SURVIVOR: THE OFFICIAL COMPANION BOOK by Mark Burnett with Martin Dugard

What happens when 16 Americans leave the luxurious comfort and convenience of Western living and pit themselves against each other on a rat-and-snake infested tropical island at the behest of a major television network for the chance to win a million bucks? As everyone knows by now, the overbearing, naked homo walks away with the cash, and said network runs away with the summer 2000 Nielsens, leaving the other networks scrambling to put together reality programming of their own. So what's with the popularity of reality-based programming, anyway? Perhaps Robert Putnam and his acolytes are correct when they rant about the isolation and social disengagement of Americans, and reality programming represents an opportunity for our nation of loners to connect with the personalities of others, if only for an hour each week. Or maybe everyone is so fed up with laugh-by-number sitcoms and emotion-baiting dramas that they're looking for something different. In any event, don't expect the Survivor companion book to attack such meaty subjects; it's mostly a blow-by-blow account of the events of the series spread out on paper for those eight or ten people in America who can't cope with actual images and sound (confession: I only “survived” about forty minutes of one episode of this television series, placing me in the incredibly elite demographic of those who read the book but missed the show). The “companion” aspect of the book boils down to a little background on creator/author Mark Burnett's (also the executive producer of USA Network's Eco-Challenge) efforts to get this brainstorm sold to the networks, some one-hits on the travails of producing the show in trying conditions, a short Q&A with the survivor himself, some descriptions of interaction between contestants and the production crew, and plenty of pop history and psychology mixed into the narrative to make up for the lost visuals. Don't expect one of those fat, glossy-laden scrapbooks spawned by MTV's The Real World with extended glimpses into the characters' home lives, “where are they now” retrospectives, and the like. Hell, this companion only contains about ten photos throughout, mostly facial close-ups with no description. Overall, the book seems like a cynical attempt to milk a few more pieces of silver from the consumer public. And, judging by the typos and poor sentence structure in places (verbs—you need them), a rushed one at that. Few will actually read this book (even the editor didn't bother), but who the hell reads anymore?

-Bo Pogue

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