Tuned In

The Morning After: Time to Give Up on Survivor?

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Thursday night is becoming a high-class problem for TV viewers: on one night, we’ve got NBC’s comedy block (its two-hour comedy block, Mr. Leno), It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Fringe, Project Runway, FlashForward and Survivor. (Also Grey’s Anatomy, Vampire Diaries, etc., for those of you who partake–feel free to discuss any of those below.) I can see already that for the foreseeable future, I will be watching Thursday-night TV well into the next week. My official thanks to Heroes for sufficiently sucking that I have free time on Mondays.

It’s getting bad enough that last week I missed an episode of Survivor for the first time in years, and this could be the season I finally lose my longtime habit. (I’m not alone, it seems, as season-premiere ratings have been dropping.) But I watched last night, and for old time’s sake, a few (semi-spoilery) thoughts after the jump:

* It’s not helping tether me to Survivor that so far this season seems dominated by some unpleasant characters; and not fun, amusing unpleasant, as we’ve had several seasons, but ugly, unlikable unpleasant, as in Survivor: Thailand.

* Nonetheless, CBS has been playing up Russell in its promos for all he’s worth. His icky demeanor aside (he has a chilling glint in his eye, like some overgrown evil leprechaun), I’m not convinced he’s actually a good player. Yes, he can manipulate people. But I think he needs to pace himself. First, by focusing on eliminating threats so early, he may end up decimating his tribe, then going down outnumbered at the merge. And by making so many alliances so early on, he seems bound to get caught out as a triple-dealer too soon. That said, using meta-evidence, I have to guess he’ll be around for a while, or CBS wouldn’t be pinning so much on him in its publicity.

* I understand Jeff Probst’s getting cheesed off at the contestants’ brutalizing each other in the challenge last night. But here’s an idea, Survivor producers: if you’re disturbed by dirty pool and ugly play, how about you stop designing challenges in which you encourage contestants to beat the holy hell out of each other? There’s been a lot of this in recent seasons, and while it makes for exciting clips for the ads, and, usually, plenty of pixellated skin, these usually aren’t the most entertaining or exciting challenges anyway. (Not to mention that they give a big tribal-council advantage to beefy players, who usually have an edge in early voting to begin with.)

We’ll see how long I stick with Survivor: Samoa this season. There will be a part of me that will be sad if I drop it after so many years, but I’m only one man. Any Tuned Inlanders still standing by it?