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CBS bets 'Survivor' can survive bad timing

Saturday, January 27, 2001

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

PASADENA, Calif. - I still think it's a mistake.

The CBS powers that be are all too eager to get a sequel to last summer's hit "Survivor" on the air, but by putting the show back on now - in the middle of winter - they threaten to dilute its impact. And longevity. Don't you think "Survivor" would have more meaning if it became a traditional summer series rather than a stop gap effort to shore up a schedule with sagging ratings?


"Survivor: The Australian Outback"

When: Following Super Bowl XXXV and then Thursdays at 8 p.m. on CBS.

Host: Jeff Probst.


But TV executives think in the short term. Rather than reserving the series for special events, CBS wants to get the most bang for its buck now.

So tonight we get "Survivor: The Australian Outback" following the Super Bowl. Like the first "Survivor," its content remains a closely guarded secret, but rumors abound:

Someone was injured while filming a challenge. (No idea if it's true. Executive producer Mark Burnett won't comment on specifics.)

The jury of 12 remaining at the end of the series cast their ballots on a winner in Australia, but no winner was announced when filming concluded in early December. (Untrue. Burnett said the contestants know who won.)

One of the contestants is from Beaver, Pa. (Yep, it's Amber Brkich.)

Here's what we do know: Once again there will be 16 contestants. Their identities and photos were released earlier this month, and the cast looks a little younger and more camera-ready this time. Burnett denies special efforts were made to cast a sexier "Survivor."

"The average age is only two years younger," Burnett said. "It seemed older last year because we jumped from 20s and 30s up to 70s. This year, I believe we have 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s, which is more representative of the country.

"We are a bit smarter than just going for pretty faces, knowing that we have to carry 14 weeks of television," Burnett said. "It just so happened that the characters happened to, in some cases, have pretty faces."

And this is what we know about the people behind the pretty faces:

Roger Bingham, 53: Industrial arts teacher/farmer from Crittenden, Ky. He's a self-described workaholic and elder at Crittenden Christian Church.

Amber Brkich, 22: Administrative assistant/recent graduate of Westminster College from Beaver, Pa. In college she majored in public relations and had a minor in speech communications. She's a member of Alpha Gamma Delta sorority.

Nick Brown, 23: Harvard Law student from Steilacoom, Wash. He's currently an officer in the U.S. Army and aspires to join the Army's Judge Advocate General's office upon graduation. He also worked as a model.

Alicia Calaway, 32: Personal trainer living in New York City. She graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York and won the Ms. Connecticut Amateur Natural Bodybuilding competition in 1994.

Colby Donaldson, 26: Auto customizer living in Dallas. He graduated from Texas Tech University with a degree in business marketing and worked as a sales rep for an HMO carrier before starting his own business.

Debb Eaton, 45: Corrections officer from Berlin, N.H. Her husband, a New Hampshire State police officer, died in the line of duty in 1997. She enjoys riding motorcycles, hiking, running and lifting weights.

Keith Famie, 40: Chef living in Bloomfield, Mich. Opened his first restaurant in 1988 and hosted cooking segments for local TV stations. A cookbook he wrote, "Famie's Adventures in Cooking," will be published this spring.

Elisabeth Filarski, 23: Footwear designer, living in Newton, Mass. She spends her free time creating greeting cards and personalized planners. She has a boyfriend and spent time in Belize teaching in the rainforest.

Kel Gleason, 32: Army Intelligence officer living in Fort Hood, Texas. Got permission from the Army to take a leave to appear in "Survivor 2." He was once assigned to peacekeeping operations in Bosnia. He's interested in learning about his South American Indian (Quechuan) heritage.

Maralyn "Mad Dog" Hershey, 51: Retired police officer living in Wakefield, Va. The first woman to be assigned to street patrol in Washington, D.C., she owns a horse named G-Man, two goats, a donkey and a dog.

Kimmi Kappenberg, 28: Bartender/free-lance production assistant living in Ronkonkoma, N.Y. Her favorite hobbies include photography, gardening and reading. Her favorite movies are "Cruel Intentions" and "Beauty and the Beast."

Jerry Manthey, 30: Bartender/aspiring actress living in Los Angeles. She wrote, directed and produced a play with her best friend for the Hudson Theater in L.A. and appeared in the Showtime movie "That Championship Season." She attends the Burning Man festival every year in the Black Rock desert of Nevada.

Mitchell Olson, 23: Singer/songwriter from Vermillion, S.D., living in Union City, N.J. He's 7 feet tall and is convinced Britney Spears has a crush on him, although he concedes that it might be the other way around. He was raised on a farm and has written songs about his "Survivor" appearance.

Michael Skupin, 38: Software publisher and distributor living in White Lake, Mich. He's married with three children and enjoys barefoot water-skiing.

Jeff Varner, 34: Internet project manager living in New York City. He earned a black belt in Tae Kwon Do at age 15 and was a member of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, cheer team in 1989-1990.

Tina Wesson, 40: Mother and part-time personal nurse from Knoxville, Tenn. She's previously worked as a flight attendant, substitute teacher and swimming instructor. She's an early riser.

Post-Gazette TV Editor Rob Owen can be reached at rowen@post-gazette.com. Post questions or comments to www.post-gazette.com/tv under TV FORUM.

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