Survivor: Nicaragua, which pits a tribe of players under 30 against a tribe of players over 40, announced its cast yesterday, which includes maybe the biggest (pre-Survivor) celebrity to play the game, former football coach and Fox NFL analyst Jimmy Johnson. Fellow critics Linda Holmes and Alan Sepinwall (and I’m sure many others) have debated whether this is a stunt too far for Survivor, and if Johnson is so well-known that he’ll be a distraction.
It’s certainly possible, although I have my doubts whether Johnson will last long enough for this to be a real factor. (In past Survivor editions, contestants with some fame or money have hid it from their tribesmates, guessing correctly it would make them a target. No hiding for Jimmy Johnson.) I don’t even mind Survivor relying on gimmicks. But Survivor does better when it relies on one gimmick at a time.
In this case, that was supposed to be the age-war concept. The much-criticized race-divided tribe setup of Survivor: Cook islands ended up making for one of the better, and more surprising, Survivors to date. There’s a lot of potential to the age conflict—not that there isn’t age conflict in every Survivor season—partly because it’s a metaphor for age in our culture and TV generally, partly because, as we’ve seen in the past, older players often end up having long-term advantages over younger competitors.
Now Nicaragua is simply The Survivor With Jimmy Johnson On It. Which I’m far less interested in, but then again, I’m not much of a sports fan. Is it game on for you?