Keepin' it all together
Wacky Wanda is back! S13 Episode 1 Commentary!
« on: Sep 18th, 2006, 8:44am »
PICKING OUR FAVS!
S-13, Cook Islands, is rolling, and it's time to start pickin' our fav's! We all have our own criteria. Probably most of us like to root for someone who matches our own interests and demographics, but in every category there's plenty to choose from. It's more fun when you've got your own horse in the race, so let's tap some early loves. Natch, we'll revise as we go along, as we get new information, and as the field narrows. We'll start with some thoughts on what casting has done for us, then some thoughts on how I pick my favs, and then a tribe-by-tribe run-down in reverse order of their success in the challenge.
What casting has done for us: I'll admit that I wasn't thrilled to hear, from Jeff Probst himself, that 85% of this cast (read: 17 out of 20) are recruits, most of whom never watched the show. More than a million and a half dollars worth of prize money will be paid out by SEG (Survivor Entertainment Group) to these 20 players. With tens of thousands of fans knocking themselves out to make creative audition videos and prove their worthiness to play this game, why will only 3 real fans get to take part? Seems to me that fans, the loyal people who watch show week after week and give the show the ratings that keep it on the air, should get a little more consideration than that.
They tell us that 80% of those who apply are white, and they wanted more ethnicity. Okay, two questions. First: Why are the two white guys on the show both recruits, from LA and San Diego? I have heard that the show gets about 40,000 audition tapes per season. 80% is 32,000, of whom no doubt at least half are male. In 16,000 plus audition tapes there were no good picks on white guys? We also have two white female recruits from California. Not enough applications from Caucasian women? Second: If 20% of the audition tapes are from ethnically diverse people, that means about 8,000 audition tapes from black, Hispanic, and Asian-American (maybe even some Native American?) fans. Couldn't find enough good people there? There were only 6,100 audition tapes for the first season of Survivor, and they managed to pull together a cast. Now they apparently get more applications than that just from minority groups, and they still recruit. Shakespeare once had a line about "something rotten in the state of Denmark!" (Hamlet, Act I) What would he say about casting today!
The population mix of the US today is about 70% "white," which I enclose in quotation marks because "white" encompasses so many different national backgrounds and skin shades. The rest of the population includes a mix of less than 5% Native Americans, Asian Americans, and Pacific Islanders, with the other 25% nearly split between black and Hispanic people. If the statistic from Survivor spokesfolks is true, that 80% of their applicants are white (and thus 20% non-white), while the population pool is 70% white (and 30% other), I just seems to my little mind that minority groups have not really been grossly under-represented in either applications or game slots.
That said, just one clarification: I have no problem with the way the tribes are set up. It's just producers' preference for recruiting as opposed to selecting from fan audition tapes that kinda bothers me. I have known some Asian and black Americans who have applied and seemed like fantastic candidates to my inexperienced eye. If I were in their shoes, I'd wonder why the recruits were selected instead of me. And the same goes for all the tens of thousands of white applicants who were by-passed in preference for four white California recruits. Okay, nuff said on that. This cast is 65% California. Is this diversity?
How I pick favs: I gotta admit that I have an initial preference for people who love the show and applied because they think Survivor is the world's greatest game, and they want to play it. Beyond that, I like people who have good hearts and good character. This usually shows up in bios that reveal some contributions to their communities or to causes they cherish. On the show, it shows up in their behavior, the way they value and care about other people. We can't see much of that in just one episode, but we'll see more as the show moves on. So here's my tribe-by-tribe preferences as of episode one.
Manihiki: First, I think we should note that black Americans sorta got screwed in their representation. One pre-premiere prediction I read said that we could probably expect this tribe to be strong athletically. Makes sense: they dominate the rosters of most professional sports teams. But casting selected two musicians, a make-up artist, an actress, and a nursing student. Nathan, Sekou, and Sundra are all from LA, with diversity added by Rebecca from New York and Stephannie from South Carolina. Tidbits: Sekou was the only one of the five to list Survivor as one of his favorite TV shows. Sorry to see the only real Survivor fan in the tribe go first. Nathan perceived the threat to the men on the tribe, and Sekou did his best to negotiate a stay of execution, but the nice try failed. Incidentally, at age 45, Sekou was the oldest of all 20 in the S-13 cast. All the "Hikis" seem like nice people, but I don't see much in the way of Survivor strengths in this group. My favorite from "Hiki": Stephannie. I think she's smart and a sweetheart. She's got two kids, she served our country in Desert Storm, and she responded to a News 19 casting call for Survivor and thus was apparently one of the three people in S-13 who was not a recruit. Good luck to Stephannie!
Rarotonga: This tribe is also 80% recruits, 100% of the recruits Californians, with Jonathan and Parvati from LA, Adam from nearby San Diego, and Jessica - aka "Flica" - from Chico. Currently-exiled Jonathan, age 44, is the second oldest castmember on S-13. Jessica was not too smart in lifting the chicken box and letting the meat (and/or eggs?) get away; then again, that was not a smart way to have confined them in the first place, because anyone with a modicum of experience with animals knows that it'd be tough for anyone to lift the box and get a chicken without it escaping. Finding a way to cover the top of the crate would have been smarter. Anyway, my pick on the Caucasian tribe, and one of my top-two favorites on the whole cast, is Candice, a 23 year old from South Carolina. This gal got an 800 on her math SAT and is a pre-med student with the brains to go all the way, but best of all, she's the biggest Survivor fan on this cast and arguably one of the biggest Survivor fans ever. Watching Survivor Africa stirred her heart to go to Kenya, and later to Chile and Peru in South America, to serve the people in whatever way she could with her talents and energy. In spite of the fact that in the first show she looked like nothing more than a cuddle-pal for Adam, Candice is my fav here, because she's right at the center of both my targets: a true Survivor fan, and a gal with heart and character. I suspect she's the only person to have made an audition tape and get selected for this season. The brains are a bonus. Oh, Adam and Jonathan, as well Candice, listed Survivor as one of their favorite shows.
Aitutaki: The Latinos are also 80% Californians, with Billy bringing diversity by representing New York instead. (Don't we just love diversity! Two different states!). I've gotta say that there are some people here to love. First, the three guys (Billy, JP, and Ozzy) all like Survivor. Second, there are several people here who hit my target for character greatness. JP, who at age 30 has already lost his mother to breast cancer and his father to a brain tumor, devotes time to mentoring kids. I like that. Cecilla, 29, who came here from Peru as a teenager, also mentors kids and has a passion for charities and helping people. Then there's Chrstina, 35, who is an LA cop and twice has been nearly killed in the line of duty, once when a drunk driver nearly took her out, and another time when she was shot and almost lost the use of an arm. There's a lot to admire in all three of these people. But my fav on this tribe might be Oscar "Ozzy" Luth, a 25 year old waiter and Mexican immigrant (I say "Welcome to the USA, brother!") who can dive 30 feet and hold his breath for 3 minutes and who has camped from Panama to San Diego and developed all kinds of true wilderness survival skills, from building traps to building shelters. Recall his observations on the tribal "leader" not really knowing what he was doing when it came to shelter constructions. Ozzy knows. And Ozzy'll climb those trees and bring down the coconuts. OZ -- may you be the Wizard and give your team all the heart, brains, and courage to go far!
Puka-Puka: And the Asian-Americans won! Yeah, we know these people are so smart! This country can use all the Asian-Americans we can get! Bring 'em on, Bring 'em in! And these people are so good! Becky Lee, a 28 year old Washington DC attorney, has a heart for helping battered women. (She's the only one on this tribe who lists Survivor as a favorite show.) Brad, 29, helps fight AIDS and works in the Big Brother program. Yul Kwon, 31, is a Yale Law School grad who volunteers his time to work with kids and describes himself as "idealistic and compassionate" -- man, I love that! And then there's Anh-Tuan, our Vietnamese refugee. Our country undoubtedly messed up a lot in Vietnam, messed up the lives of thousands of human beings, as we're doing again now in Iraq, but it's some small consolation to me to think that a few folks like Anh-Tuan end up having a better life. I love that he's one of us now! What a creative guy: takes "Cao Boi" for a nickname so he can be Vietnamese-American "Cowboy!" Is that not the coolest! This guy auditioned for Survivor at an open call, so I take it that along with Stephannie and Candice, he's one of the three who was not a recruit, and that's points (for initiative and love of Survivor) in my book. Then there's all the other stuff about this guy: classical guitar, the Army, Boy Scouting, passion for World Peace, Gandhi-like fasts, and real wilderness experience -- he's hiked the whole Appalachian Trail! I was wondering when Survivor would finally get an AT hiker! I love backpacking, but I haven't done anything close to 2250 miles! America's gotta love the Cao-Boi!
So -- I've picked my favs. But it's too early to pick a winner. Stay tuned.