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Paramount Studios presents
Survivor: The Australian Outback—The Greatest and Most Outrageous Moments (2001)

"This is the hardest thing I've ever done in my life, and I'd never, ever, do it again."
- Tina Wesson

Review By: Dan Heaton   
Published: September 27, 2001

Stars: Tina Wesson, Colby Donaldson, Keith Famie, Elizabeth Filarski, Roger Bingham, Amber Brkich, Nick Brown, Jerri Manthey
Other Stars: Alicia Calaway, Jeff Varner, Michael Skupin, Kimmi Kappenberg, Mitchell Olson, Marilyn "Mad Dog" Hershey, Kel Gleason, Debb Eaton
Director: Unknown

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (contains some adult language)
Run Time: 02h:02m:16s
Release Date: September 25, 2001
UPC: 097368426047
Genre: television

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B B-B+B B-

DVD Review

Following the gargantuan success of its predecessor, Survivor: The Australian Outback faced tremendous expectations from audiences and network executives. In a daring move, CBS placed their ratings juggernaut opposite NBC's Friends and promptly took over the Thursday "Must See TV" crown. It's difficult to choose the contrived minor troubles of Chandler, Rachel, Joey, and the gang over viewing the conniving schemes of Jerri, Colby, and Tina. This impressive mix of physical challenges and soap opera drama once again generated large audiences. The promise of "reality" television avoided the artificial nature of sitcoms riddled with laugh tracks and ridiculous stories.

This DVD release covers the highlights of all 42 days in the Outback and includes never-before-seen footage that failed to air on television. In two hours, it cleverly summarizes the highs and lows of the cast's adventure in Australia. We also see excerpts from the original audition tapes for each survivor, which provide some moments of silly humor. Unforunately, the important events lack the original tension when the final outcome is already known. Several new scenes provide more insight into the contestants, but the overall feature lacks the interest and unpredictability of the original airing.

The basic format for Survivor is fairly simple, but it works because the editing is fast and engaging. The producers have created a show that's accessible to the masses without alienating more discriminating television viewers. The group begins with 16 contestants split into two tribes containing an equal number of men and women. Every three days, the tribal council meets to vote off one member. In order to avoid facing an unfortunate exit, contestants must face off in challenges to gain immunity from the vote. In the beginning, tribes compete against each other to avoid the council. Once the group has dwindled to ten members, the two groups merge, and the challenges become individual battles. The ultimate survivor leaves with the prize of one million dollars.

In the first season, Richard Hatch quickly proved that remarkable physical skills were not essential for victory. Following his method of forming early voting alliances, this year's crop spend much of their time discussing strategies behind each other's backs. This removes the fresh nature of the original cast, but it also increases the tension during the tribal councils. In Australia, the tribes were named Ogakor and Kucha, and each group quickly developed its own personality. Ogakor picked up more of the egotistical, dominant members of the cast, which lead to numerous squabbles over petty issues. Lead by Jerrióthe aspiring actress who viewers loved to hateóand Colby, the formidable Texan guy picked by many to win, the tribe struggles through a string of early losses to their friendlier counterparts.

Survivor: The Australian Outback—The Greatest and Most Outrageous Moments becomes most intriguing at the events away from the sometimes-dull immunity challenges. The Kucha tribe appears to be heading for total dominance when fate intervenes. In one of the more troubling television moments of the past season, Michaelóthe self-proclaimed "leader" of the groupósuffers intense burns to his hands and has to exit the competition. This type of drama is impossible to choreograph, and it leads to a sadly compelling hour of television.

Another disturbing element of the show was the sickly state of the final members who had lost a ridiculous amount of weight in a short time. Forced to give up their prime camping spot for more rice, the survivors watched in horror as flood waters overcame their camp. This lead to a harrowing rescue of the food container, which conveniently was caught on a nearby bank. Keith and Tina's trek across a strong current to save their lone source of nourishment was one of the highlights of the series.

Much of the allure of Survivor stems from trying to guess who will be the next to go during each episode. This type of spontanaeity is lacking on this feature, which instead presents a few tidbits about each survivor. The final product will interest devout fans of the show, but it lacks the extra touch needed for fascinating television.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Because Survivor originally aired on television, the presentation appears in the full-frame format and falls short of the level of film. However, this transfer works nicely and is a large step above its initial version. The colors are crisper and brighter, leading to a sharp picture that fails to distract from viewing. The impressive Australian landscape looks breathtaking, and there are no lesser moments in terms of visual quality. Considering the source, this disc has a solid picture with few apparent drawbacks.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes

Audio Transfer Review: This disc features a 2.0-channel Dolby Surround track that decently conveys the ambient noises of the Australian Outback. The theme music and sound effects sound impressive and exude a little force. All of the dialogue is easily understood and springs clearly from both speakers. However, this transfer could have been much stronger with more complexity across the sound field. The overall result is fairly quiet and low-key, which is effective but falls short of anything exceptional.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 42 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual
Layers Switch: 01h:31m:10s

Extra Extras:
  1. Early show interviews with each survivor
Extras Review: Survivor: The Australian Outback includes only one supplement, but it's a worthy addition that provides background into each cast member's experience. Following the airing of their exit from the island, each survivor appeared on CBS' The Early Show and chatted with Bryant Gumbel and other anchors. This disc contains portions of the interviews with each person, and several interesting and awkward moments occur. Kel speaks candidly about his anger for Jerri, Nick talks about being falsely pictured as lazy, and Maralyn sings a dreadful piano tune about the show. Overall, these interviews are a nice touch, but it's unfortunate that more elements weren't included. Possibly intriguing options were behind-the-scenes footage from the island, an interview with executive producer Mark Burnett, more background on the cast members or a cast commentary.

Extras Grade: B-


Final Comments

I'm slightly embarrassed to admit my interest in Survivor. When the third season begins in a few weeks, my mind will once again focus on a new group of sixteen contestants. Will the concept remain fresh once again? We'll have to wait and see. But it's nearly guaranteed it will once again become one of the top hits on television.


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