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It's easy to say this from the comfort of my family room, watching things unfold on TV without actually being there, but it strikes me as a really bad idea to throw an immunity challenge in "Survivor" just so you can lose and vote out someone annoying on your tribe. Yet, that's what one of the tribes did on last night's episode. The targeted tribe member was lazy, annoying, and delusional, thinking that a woman from another tribe had fallen in love with him "at first sight."
Isn't it better to keep him around in case you do lose a challenge later on? And if he's that annoying and useless, isn't it better to keep him around for the final 2, so that you can't help but win the $1 million if the other choice is him?
I've blogged before about how I dislike overuse of the "in media res" technique of starting a story in the middle of action, then flashing back to the beginning. So it was not an auspicious start to CBS's new serialized crime drama "Smith" when the first act was a gripping museum robbery scene ending with a shootout (except we didn't see who was shot), only to be followed after the title credits and commercial with the dreaded words "three weeks earlier."
Yet, in this instance, I cut the writers some slack. It's the pilot episode, and the first five minutes may be important in grabbing hold of viewers and keeping them glued to the show. A slow set-up showing how the bad guys are planning their crime wouldn't be as riveting as seeing the plan sprung first.
So what did I think of the show? It was very stylish, almost like a movie, and Ray Liotta as Robert Stevens aka Smith brings his usual cinema intensity to the small screen. There's enough attention to character that we can already differentiate the crew, and the previews suggest that there are indeed consequences to their actions, whether good or bad. Mrs. "House of Sand and Fog" (i.e., Dina Araz from "24") shows up as the fence who tells Smith what stolen property she's willing to buy and shows that she's a terrific actress -- she's nothing like Mrs. Araz or the scientist from "X-Men 3."
This is a definite "season pass" keeper on my TiVo and may well be the top new drama of the season.
Okay, so the idea of any legitimacy attaching to social
experimentation via a reality TV show like "Survivor" is pretty silly.
The sample size is too small, the tribe members are selected by
producers and thus not randomly picked, and there are massive observer
effects that would taint the experiment. With that caveat in mind, I
think CBS missed an opportunity to run a more interesting "experiment"
than the one it has promoted.
For those who aren't "Survivor" fans, the show takes 16-20
contestants, and divides them up into "tribes," has the tribes compete
in contests for rewards and "immunity." The tribe that loses an
immunity challenge has to go to "Tribal Council," where tribe members
vote one of their own off the island and out of the game. Later on,
the tribes "merge," and the game becomes individual. In the first
season, four players formed an "alliance" to vote as a bloc and
controlled the game, with all four going to the finals. This has been
the template for winning the game.
This year, "Survivor" cast 5 Caucasians, 5 African-Americans, 5
Latinos, and 5 Asians, with, you guessed it, four tribes of five each
-- each consisting of players of the same race. On the one hand, this
was a laudable bit of diversification, since in the past, there had
generally been one or two token minorities. However, pitting tribes of
different races against one another has left a bad taste among a lot of
It seems to me, however, that a far more interesting experiment
would have been to pit a diverse tribe against one or more non-diverse
tribes. For example, tribe A could be all one race, tribe B all
another race, and tribe C mixed of all races. Is the strength of
diversity, encompassing all different experiences and outlooks,
overcome by the strength of unity, encompassing shared views, etc.?
Of course, I'm not serious about this proposal, at least, certainly
not in the sense that I think it would be useful as an exhibit in any
future Grutter-type affirmative action case before the courts.
Apart from the methodological problems identified above, "Survivor" is
a far cry from an educational setting such as a university. To the
extent that it may dramatize the relative advantages (and costs) of
diversity, however, the "diverse" vs. "non-diverse" tribe scenario
would at least provide some water cooler conversation that would be
more useful than the current incarnation.
Normally, I don't watch TV commercials, since I use TiVo and hence skip the ads. However, tonight we went out to eat at a Japanese restaurant that had a TV set tuned to the college football games, and so I happened to see a political attack campaign launched against Mike Whalen, one of the candidates for a congressional spot in eastern Iowa. I had no idea who Whalen is (he's not running in my congressional district) and have no reason to support or oppose him. But I know enough to think that the attack ad was pretty unfair.
The ad started off by linking Whalen to President Bush on Social Security reform, stating that Whalen supported privatizing Social Security -- a move that, the ad claimed, would reduce benefits and increase the debt. Maybe, maybe not, but let's assume that the ad is correct. The ad then went on to attack Whalen by stating that he also suggested maybe we need to raise the Social Security tax.
So . . . according to the ad, Whalen is a bad guy because (1) he would reduce Social Security benefits; or (2) he would increase Social Security taxes.
But unless you think that there is no problem with the Social Security trust fund, don't you have to sign on to one or the other (or both) solutions?!? The fact is we can't afford indefinitely paying out the benefits that we've promised while maintaining the same tax rate that we have. I can understand the point of view that cutting benefits is bad because it would probably hurt the poor the most. I can understand the point of view that raising taxes is bad because it depresses investment and economic activity. But you can't put your head in the sand and do nothing.
As I say, I know nothing about Whalen's position apart from what the attack ad told me. He could be a buffoon for all I know. But this particular attack was pretty irresponsible pandering.
How many people who watched last night's episode of "Survivor," where there were four tribes divided strictly by race, managed to avoid cheering for the team that was made up of their own racial group? I'm curious whether CBS's brilliant, if manipulative, ploy boosted the show's ratings into the stratosphere?
If you haven't already noticed, I've co-founded a new blog, National Security Advisors, with my fellow national security law scholars Bobby Chesney and Steve Vladeck. I'll continue to blog here, mostly general law, law teaching, and pop culture matters, though I may cross-post some con law/national security law posts here as well as there.
I just started watching "Project Runway" in the last week, but fortunately Bravo airs about 10 episodes a day, so I've been able to catch up on season 3 pretty quickly. I love this show! It's basically what "The Apprentice" should be but fails all too often at. It doesn't have cheesy wannabe actors/actresses and it's got creative and interesting challenges . . . like the time the clothing designer competitors had to design clothes for the "average woman." The models for that challenge turned out to be the moms or sisters of the competitors!
Host Heidi Klum does scare me a bit, though. She reminds me of the "fembots" from "The Six Million Dollar Man" and "The Bionic Woman" TV serieses.
So I'm really enjoying season 2 of "Prison Break" to this point, but it seems to me that my suspension of disbelief has been taxed even more than usual. Specifically, T-Bag, having had his hand cut off at the end of season 1, packs his severed hand in ice stolen from campers and then staggers into a vet doctor's clinic and forces the vet to *reattach his hand* . . . without anasthetic!!!
Um, okay. I have a hard time seeing how a vet doctor would have the right instruments for the kind of microsurgery it would take to reattach a hand. All those little blood vessels have to be sewn back. And wouldn't the bones need lots of pins to hold in place? And it didn't look like a sterile place, either.
Hmm, maybe T-Bag will be struck by the flesh-eating staph bug. That would be cool.