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'Survivor' could come back to life at the Emmys

May 18, 2009 |  2:07 pm

"Survivor" wrapped its 18th installment Sunday night on CBS with a finale that saw one of the relatively good guys — James "J.T. Thomas — winning over both the jury and the public. Now the question is: can this kinder, gentler version of "Survivor" can win over Emmy voters once more?

Survivor Finale CBS JT Thomas This granddaddy of all reality competition shows premiered back in summer 2000 and quickly became a national obsession. In 2001, "Survivor" was named outstanding nonfiction program (special class) at the Emmy Awards. Two years later, the reality competition category was introduced at the Emmys and "Survivor" was one of the front-runners to win this award. Instead, that critical darling "The Amazing Race" took home the gold and has done so ever since.

"Survivor" was an Emmy also-ran for four years before being dropped from the lineup of nominees two years ago in favor of "Top Chef." How ironic that a show that starves its contestants was replaced by a culinary competition. And adding to the twists of Emmy fate, last year "Survivor" wrangler Jeff Probst won the first Emmy bestowed on a reality show host while "Amazing Race" leader Phil Keoghan was not even nominated.

"Survivor" took over the time slot of that perennial Emmy champ time on Sunday night. The finale of this one-time ratings juggernaut — which stretched over three hours — proved strong competition for "Desperate Housewives." "Survivor" is ranked 17th for the season, attracting about half the viewers of top-rated "American Idol." That musical competition has been bested by the much-lower-rated "Amazing Race" at the Emmys for six straight years. And just as that show is enjoying a critical resurgence this season, so too is "Survivor."

For Dalton Ross of Entertainment Weekly, "occasionally we are reminded that 'Survivor' is chiefly a social experiment and we are treated to a fascinating social scene, and that's what was served up at the final Tribal Council. Two best friends who hadn't had a cross word in 39 days suddenly ripping and clawing at each other for a splash of cash. Honestly, is there anything better than that?"

As Andy Dehnart of MSNBC explains, "Their bond finally seemed to show some cracks during a dramatic Tribal Council, when Stephen and JT faced the jury and each argued why he should win $1 million. Usually the jury members try to show off and make their speeches about themselves, but this time, their questions had the effect of creating a wedge in between the two."


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Photo: CBS

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