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Monday, 21 May, 2001, 22:40 GMT 23:40 UK
Survivor's sun, sea and scheming
ITV's Survivor contestants
Would you trust this lot? The Survivor 16
By BBC News Online's Darryl Chamberlain

"16 castaways... 40 days... 40 nights..."

Hang on, haven't we been somewhere like this before?

But just as life on Pulau Tiga in the South China Sea, off Borneo, is different from Big Brother's patch of wasteland in Bow, off the Blackwall Tunnel approach road, life on prime-time ITV is different from life on late-night Channel 4.

Survivor island
The island is the real star of the show
Despite the hype surrounding the show, Survivor takes patience and time to get into - and so far, the real star of the series is the show's beautiful location.

The continuity announcer on Carlton in London advised his viewers that those with digital terrestrial sets could "immerse" themselves with interactive options - but it's hard to think how much further into Survivor you could go thanks to the elaborate camerawork.

Host Mark Austin keeps a discreet distance from the action, as he makes a seamless transition from the ITN frontline to the prime-time ratings battlefield.

Helang tribe
It was hoorary for Helang...
As for the contestants themselves, keeping tabs on 16 of them - 15 by the show's end - is going to be a challenge for its early viewers.

We watched them struggle to get food. Charlotte, an early tabloid favourite, complained, "I don't mind killing the fish to eat, but I don't want it to die in pain," as the Helang tribe caught a small fish, prevaricated, then threw it back in again.

In a preview programme screened earlier in the evening, the Helang tribe's Uzma, an entrepreneur from Watford, told she was planning to bring some Anusol as a luxury item.

Ular tribe
...while things got ugly for Ular
Unfortunately for Mick, a retired policeman from Dartford, Kent, he wouldn't have been able to use it as he was on the rival Ular tribe. He told the story of how he tried to smuggle four sausages onto the island inside a private orifice - but when he tried to retrieve them, could only find three.

Later, he grinned as he told how a colleague found a cigarette lighter on the beach - but thankfully didn't say where he would be keeping that on his person.

Such talk clearly got to the Ular tribe's Jackie, who was ill within hours of setting foot on the island.

In fact, it was a bad start for the Ular gang, who failed in the first task - to drag rafts which were out at sea back onto the beach, and to light a series of torches. They failed, while the Helang team celebrated wildly.

Smuggler's tale: Mick had a tricky problem
A day of reckoning followed as the Ular tribe had to vote off one member in a tribal council.

As each member voted - in scenes reminiscent of The Weakest Link, but with warpaint - Jackie looked as if she was going to put in the cooking pot, never mind sent packing.

But it was Nick, who earlier boasted how he read How To Win Friends And Influence People, who got the boot, and was told to "extinguish his flame" by a sombre Mark Austin.

Jackie found the tribal council unsettling
But ITV executives will be less worried about Nick's flame, and more worried about whether Survivor will set the ratings alight. The early signs are promising.

Comparisons with Big Brother are unfair - Survivor's style is much more subtle, and the programme proceeds at a leisurely pace, luxuriating in its surroundings.

Commendably, it doesn't play up to the tabloids' interest in its more attractive contestants, preferring to eavesdrop on different groups at a time, without trying to analyse their feelings or actions.

Out: Nick got the boot
While viewers don't take any part in voting off their least favourite contestants - there's enough potential for skullduggery here to make Big Brother's Nasty Nick episode look like a spat in a schoolyard.

If viewers were seduced by the scenery on Monday night, and can stick with it while the contestants are whittled down to a much more manageable eight or 10, they'll be hooked for the rest of the show's run.

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21 May 01 | Reviews
Survivor: Your views
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