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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Survivor: Season 1
Survivor: Season 1
Paramount // Unrated // May 11, 2004
List Price: $49.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Aaron Beierle | posted May 10, 2004 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

Despite the irritation I've had with reality television in past writings, I do believe that some of the shows do have some redeeming qualities. At the head of the pack is "Amazing Race", CBS's series that has a pack of teams racing across the globe. The series has finally gained a stronger audience and offered another round of riveting television in its fourth season last year. The series visits other cultures across our globe and offers viewers the chance to experience some fascinating sights and other cultures.

One of the runners-up in the reality catagory is producer Mark Burnett ("The Restaurant", "The Apprentice")'s "Survivor", a show that, while still involving, may have set the bar too high after the highly enjoyable first season. Although the now-repetitive format may have been one reason why the show has grown a little tired, the first season was also an example of nearly-perfect casting.

For those unfamiliar with the series, this first season appeared in 2000. Sixteen Americans were taken and "stranded" on an island for 39 days. Divided into two teams that eventually become one, the survivors compete in challenges for luxury items. Losers must face tribal counsel, where one of the losers is voted off.

Again, the first season is a superb mixture of a fresh idea and some of the best reality-show casting in the history of the genre. The mixture of larger-than-life personalities such as Richard Hatch, truck driver Susan Hawk, former Navy Seal Rudy mixed and mingled with the quieter Kelly, too adorable Colleen and others (all-in-all: Richard Hatch, Colleen Haskell, Rudy Boesch, Kelly Wiglesworth, Susan Hawk, Gervase Peterson, Jenna Lewis, Sean Kenniff, Gretchen Cordy, Greg Buis, Sonja Christopher, BB Anderson, Stacey Stillman, Dirk Been, Ramona Gray and Joel Klug).

There wasn't anything terribly "twisty" about the series; it was what it was - an involving social experiment to see how well people could work together in a tough situation, and with the differing personalities, people occasionally bumped up against one another. There was also the scheming, the planning, the behind-the-scenes discussions in-between moments of teamwork. Given that this was the first season, there was no "well, I'll play it like so-and-so did last season." Accompanied by the beautiful cinematography and haunting theme music by Russ Landau, the show always looked good, although the show has suffered from what I think is a somewhat more slick, polished appearance these days.

Still, it's great to be able to review the early moments of the series and hopefully, future seasons will get similar treatment on DVD.


The DVD

VIDEO: "Survivor: Season 1" is presented by Paramount in 1.33:1 full-frame, as it was in broadcast. The presentation quality was generally quite strong, and equivalent - maybe a bit better looking, even - than broadcast quality. Sharpness and detail were quite good throughout the programs, as the picture remained crisp and clear throughout, aside from - understandably - the occasional "night vision" shot.

The picture occasionally shows some minor noise/grain in some of the low-light areas, but aside from that, the picture appeared crisp and clean. Edge enhancement did not appear and only a couple of compression artifacts showed up. Colors remained bright and well-defined throughout.

SOUND: "Survivor" is presented in Dolby Surround here. While the music and occasional background ambience would have benefitted from Dolby Digital 5.1, the 2.0 soundtracks are still quite enjoyable. The tribal score sounds dynamic and bassy, while dialogue remains clean and clear throughout.

EXTRAS: Commentary from host Jeff Probst and survivors Richard Hatch, Rudy Boesch and Gervase Peterson are included on the first and last episodes of the season. The commentaries are quite funny, as the cast members certainly don't hesitate to goof on some of their fellow cast members and share memories of how dangerous the conditions on the island really were. They share memories of their early strategies, while host Probst talks about being last to the table, hired after the cast was picked and looking for them to mold the show, while they thought he had all the answers. All of them talk about how the show turned into a phenomenon.

Survivors Leave LA: This nearly 7-minute piece follows the cast members as they depart Los Angeles together and arrive in Borneo, all the while getting their first chance to figure each other out.

Letterman Top 10: This is the "Top 10 Things Learned on Survivor Island" on the Letterman show. Not that funny.

A Look Back: This 10-minute piece features newly recorded interviews with Gervase, Richard and Rudy.

Also: The fifth disc is the previously released "Survivor: Best of Season One". "Best Of" is a pretty well-done series of clips, interviews and more tied together in a way that I would think entertain those who were fans of the series and maybe interest those who didn't catch the first season and maybe interest them in the second season, which starts soon and takes place in the Outback. And, at least this isn't censored like those silly "Real World" DVDs that have been put out - there is a few various four letter words thrown out here and there during the documentary. We also see audition tapes and interviews with the cast members - as well as their last words after being voted off.

The extras included with the bonus disc are:

Survivior: Inside The Phenomenon: This is an additional 20 minute documentary that takes the viewer behind-the-scenes to how the idea first came about and how the format of the television show was decided upon. Interviews with the producer Mark Burnett and host Jeff Probst are very interesting to listen to, talking about the experiences that they had during pre-production and what obstacles host Probst and the crew (who had to organize in a way that they could be able to film people who may be going in different directions). The documentary is definitely worth a look as it's not "promotional" and fans will find it an enjoyable look behind-the-scenes at how the show worked.

Cast Profiles: A really nicely done section, this lists all of the Survivor members and gives the viewer their profile, "favorites", "voting history" and a video of their "final words" on the show.

The Island: A map of the island with text notes about the various locations that were important on the show.

Episode Summaries: Like the profiles, this is also a very nicely done text area where viewers can read about what happened on each episode and how the members voted.

Final Thoughts: "Survivor"'s first season is an engaging piece of television history. Copied often, somewhat a shadow of its own former self, it's still great to be able to finally look back and see how the show came together in this memorable first season. Paramount's DVD edition provides very good audio/video quality and a very satisfying helping of supplemental features. Recommended.

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