How American Survivor can make the UK version a success

The BRIT Awards 2024 - Arrivals
The BRIT Awards 2024 - Arrivals / JMEnternational/GettyImages

After a revival season of Survivor UK filled with mixed reviews, it’s clear the show needs to make some changes.

The new show aired on the BBC from October to December 2023 and was billed as reinventing the wheel, referring to the US version, which is still going strong after 46 seasons.

How was Survivor UK received?

Following a hiatus spanning over 20 years, the recent season of Survivor UK received its share of good and bad reviews.

Adam Miller of Metro had one of the more positive reviews for this past season. He said, “Survivor gets so much better once you’ve got through the first few episodes. I’m completely hooked. You need to invest in the first few slow episodes while learning names.”

However, Helen Fear from Entertainment Daily was on the opposite end of the spectrum in her review.
She said that the series host Joel Dommett “is just wrong for this show”, adding that the “tribal councils are plodding and drawn-out.”

What did the show do well?

While some things about Survivor UK needed improvement, some things were also done well.

For one, there were more than enough twists to try to throw a wrench in the game, from idols to sending contestants to the Outpost.

They even took elements similar to Australian Survivor with their “Mock Vote”, where someone joins a rival tribe instead of being voted out

The twists were fine as more than enough of them kept the players on their toes.

What did the show do poorly?

Unfortunately, what this show did poorly appears to have overshadowed what it did well.

It sounds like that’s the reason its future is up in the air.

First and foremost, I agree with Helen Fear’s assessment of Joel Dommett. He seemed to throw far too many lame jokes into the tribal councils, while doing little to build the drama we’ve come to expect before contestants vote.

Dommett is a comedian by trade, part of a comedian’s job is to read the room and, as actors will say, go off the page at times and improvise.

Based on what was aired, Dommett and the tribal councils sounded as scripted as Julie Chen, aka “Chenbot” prior to a Big Brother US eviction.

If not for some of the twists, some tribals could’ve been unbearable.

The second thing that the show needs is more variety in its challenges. Particularly early on, there seemed to be too much weight, at times literally, put on the challenges being physical.

It’s not to say it’s a bad thing to have a challenge or two based solely on balance or pure strength, but most challenges appeared to be one or the other without anything else to build the drama.

Challenges like “By all means”, “Hot Pursuit”, and “Dead Weight” were purely about physical strength and/or stamina.

Although I didn’t think the challenges had much variety, the number of challenge victories between the tribes was somewhat balanced.

What can UK Survivor take from the US version?

Taking a few more elements from the US version of Survivor could help Survivor UK remain intact.

Dommett didn’t do a great job at tribal councils and looked like an innocent bystander at most of the challenges, but so was Jeff Probst in the first four to five seasons.

Watch Survivor Borneo or The Australian Outback again, and you’ll see that his questions are simple and dull, not building up any tension or creating much of a story.

Jeff Probst
CBS Fall Schedule Celebration / Monica Schipper/GettyImages

Since Pearl Islands or maybe even Amazon, Probst has been a lot more involved, much better socially, and has asked questions that require contestants to elaborate. This leads to contestants spilling more metaphorical tea and a lot of craziness before the votes are read.

Probst has mastered the art of mediating tribal councils, building a story, getting answers from contestants, and doing it all without influencing the game.

Dommett is a comedian, and in his job, he’s undoubtedly had to go off script sometimes, make observations and go with the flow. He needs to start doing more of that.

The other thing that’s made Survivor US so successful is its challenges.

If you watch US Survivor, Probst or contestants often refer to the puzzle as the “great equalizer”.

The UK should add more challenges with physical and mental components all in one.

We’ve seen enough of it from one challenge to the next in the US version to know it can build the tension in a challenge.

In addition to that we often see what appears to be a blowout turn into a remarkable comeback.

That’s partly due to Jeff narrating challenges in real time but also because we’ve seen enough of these challenges in the US to know that, as Yogi Bera famously said, “It ain’t over till it’s over.”

These are simple changes that can be implemented. These are elements that have been tried, tested and true and could make UK Survivor successful.

Next. The Traitors will be getting a celebrity edition in the UK. The Traitors will be getting a celebrity edition in the UK. dark