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Thursday, 17 May, 2001, 09:29 GMT 10:29 UK
ITV banks on Survivor
Survivor
Survivor broke audience records in the US
By BBC News Online's Darren Waters

The UK version of Survivor launches on ITV on Monday, hoping to emulate the enormous success enjoyed by the reality TV series in the US.

The broadcaster has high hopes for the show and has been heavily promoting the programme over the last few weeks.

Mark Austin
ITN's Mark Austin will present Survivor
The format is identical to the US version of the programme, in which 16 contestants are marooned on an island, having to perform a series of challenges in order to survive.

Contestants are voted off the South China Sea island by their fellow competitors and the eventual winner walks off with a 1m prize.

Climax

Programme executive Ed Forsdick said Survivor was "the original reality TV show - epic, very grand and it looks spectacular".

Fourteen cameras, helicopters, cranes and underwater cameras are all employed to bring the 40 days of life on the island to the screen.

Survivor
The programme has cost ITV about 9m
Almost 52 million viewers tuned to watch the climax of the US series, making it the most watched programme in US television history.

To UK viewers the programme will appear to be a mix of Big Brother and shows such as Shipwrecked and Castaway.

But the programme makers insist that Survivor helped pave the way for the rash of reality TV programmes that have filled schedules in the last 12 months.

Huge hit

The programme's format dates back to a 1988 contest on the now defunct UK breakfast station TV-am, giving credence to the programme makers' claims that Survivor is the original reality TV programme.

Devised by British producer Charlie Parsons - the man behind The Big Breakfast and The Word - it was first aired on Swedish television in 1997 after TV executives in the UK passed on the idea.


I hope no-one blows a gaffe on it. It would be a very easy thing to do

Ed Forsdick, programme executive

Originally called Expedition Robinson, the series became a huge hit and the final episode was watched by half the population of Sweden.

Mr Forsdick said: "We want a lot of people to watch it and be as involved in it as the crew were.

"We have never talked about audience figures but ITV must be confident it will do well."

The show's cost has been put at close to 9m.

"If it is anything like series one or two in America ITV will make their money back," added Mr Forsdick.

For the programme to succeed, ITV will be hoping the reality TV bubble has yet to burst in the UK.

"It is like saying there are too many soaps, or dramas or news programmes," said Mr Forsdick of the proliferation of reality TV shows.

"They all stand up on their own terms."

Identity

The show is pre-recorded and the British producers will face a battle to prevent leaks to the tabloid press.

Newspapers uncovered the identity of one of the competitors in advance of the official release.

Sarah Odell, a 33-year-old model and experienced endurance race athlete, has featured in many of the trailers for the programme.

Mr Forsdick said: "I hope no-one blows a gaffe on it. It would be a very easy thing to do.

"The identity of the winner is known by a handful of people but to uncover the winner would not be to anyone's benefit.

"It never happened in the US and I think viewers like that - they would feel cheated, if they were told."

Filming on the programme finished three weeks ago and the programme makers promise many exciting moments.

They will be hoping to avoid the sort of controversy that has doggedly followed the American series since it first aired.

One former contestant is suing the broadcaster CBS saying it was fixed.

Defamation

Stacey Stillman says producers persuaded others to vote her off the show, breaking US laws governing television competitions as a result.

CBS is counter-suing the contestant for defamation and breach of contract.

Mr Forsdick said the voting process on the UK version was transparent and there has been no pressure put on contestants to force a determined outcome.

CBS is also suing Fox, alleging that the military-styled series Boot Camp is a copy of Survivor

Fox itself is suing CBS, saying the programme outcome was fixed.

The producer of the US version has also admitted that some shots were faked and that body doubles were used to film aerial and panoramic shots.

Mr Forsdick said he was not aware of any shots re-created with crew members in the British version.

"We are all making a TV show. It is not like fake guests on a talk show.

"Faking it is a very, very strong term."


Background

Viewpoints

The US series

FROM BBC ONLINE

TALKING POINT
See also:

04 Apr 01 | Entertainment
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