The Critical 'I'

Read. React. Repeat.

Sunday, September 21, 2003

REALITY CHECK: SURVIVOR EN PANAMA
pearly whites
It's that time again: The seventh edition of the mama of all reality TV shows, "Survivor: Pearl Islands", premiered last Thursday. In case you missed it, it's being repeated tonight.

I'm not a fan of Survivor, nor of any reality show. I've written on my distaste for the Survivor franchise before. One of my co-workers, a dear friend, is absolutely fixated on the show, so I have to do my share of suppressing my ridicule (most of the time ;).

But I am surrounded by hype over it, as always. And my curiosity has been piqued by the location: The Pearl Islands. I've never heard of them before, and I have an above-average knowledge of, and interest in, geography. Purely guessing, I had assumed the islands were located in the south Pacific, among the myriad tiny islands that make up Micronesia. It would be appropriate for the show's aura, that it'd be tossing its contestants into forbidding, isolated locales far from any civilization.

I did a quick search, and discovered the location of the Pearl Islands. They are in the Pacific Ocean--barely. Fact is, they are located just south of Panama City, Panama. While they aren't within a casual breaststroke of the mainland, they aren't exactly that hard to reach; in fact, they're something of a tourist getaway destination (a status which will, no doubt, be enhanced as a result of the show).

In other words, the miles-from-the-real-world sensation CBS is trying to sell on this show is largely bogus. (CBS is apparently looking to keep this under wraps, since, as of this writing, the words "Pearl Islands" on the navigation bar on the the show's official site have no hyperlink to them.) The contestants are probably seeing planes and boats, and even other human beings, on a daily basis. Yet another example of just how staged this stuff is.