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Premiered: May 31, 2000
Based on the wildly successful Swedish format "Expedition Robinson," "Survivor" didn't sneak up on anyone. Its premiere was preceded by controversy about rat-eating and other nonsense. Once it premiered, though, viewers were captivated by a cast led by the nefarious, evil, naked Richard Hatch, future "The Animal" star Colleen Haskell, gruff Marine Rudy Boesch and many others. Mark Burnett, Jeff Probst and the show's production team chose a flawless assortment of castaways who immediately set the format for what is still a reliable hit show more than 13 years later. "Survivor" premiered with over 15.5 million viewers, but that was just the beginning. Audiences improved with nearly every passing week, as "Survivor" became a cultural phenomenon. The finale in August averaged nearly 52 million viewers. We'll just repeat that: Nearly 52 million viewers. And what a finale. Sue Hawk's "Snakes and Rats" speech remains one of the most famous "Survivor" moments ever, but it also cemented the template for gap between the occasionally noble aspirations of gameplay and the kind of strategic dealings that have frequently won the million. Imagine how the game would be played today if Kelly had beaten Richard.
- Daniel Fienberg
Photo Credit: CBS