Get ready for another Super Bowl/Survivor Sunday.
By Monty Brinton, AP/CBS
CBS this week will announce plans to premiere the eighth installment of its hit reality series following its Feb. 1 telecast of the Super Bowl, TV's top-rated event.
"It worked like gangbusters when we did it with the second Survivor," says CBS president Leslie Moonves. Survivor: Australian Outback's premiere averaged 45 million viewers and kept eager viewers tuned in to the lopsided game's fourth quarter and post-game show. "Why not continue the streak? This was pretty much a no-brainer."
The latest edition features "all-stars" plucked from the first seven Survivors. It includes 18 contestants, up from the usual 16. The show will air 14 original episodes, up from the usual 13. And while the jackpot remains $1 million, the total prize pool is increased: The first contestant voted out will receive $25,000, a tenfold increase from the first loser's prize in other editions.
But Survivor Web sites say the list includes previous champs Richard Hatch and Ethan Zohn, along with standouts such as Rudy Bosch, Susan Hawk, Jerri Manthey, Colby Donaldson and Pearl Islands breakout Rupert Boneham.
"We were simply casting for the most memorable characters we could find," says Burnett, though two contestants he hoped to cast declined his offer.
"Because they've all played before, their whole mantra is to expect the unexpected. So their own imaginations are doing them in more than anything I might do."
Several all-stars wore three layers of clothing after seeing party-dressed contestants in the current edition forced to walk the plank and begin the competition much sooner than they'd expected. "What makes Survivor work is keeping people off balance. They literally were on edge for days."
Still, to compensate for their experience "I made it much, much harder," Burnett says, by offering no rations and tougher immunity challenges. "They got kicked in the butt from the very beginning."
Moonves predicts the all-star Survivor will attract more fans than usual "because people have their favorite characters. The downside is we're going to be up against the wind-down of Friends." He's taking no chances: Survivor will wrap a week or so before the Friends finale in mid-May.