Now that Bigg Boss is over and wiped from our collective memory, the big daddy of all reality shows is here. Survivor India: Caramoan Islands is so unremarkable you don’t know whether to dislike it or not. I frankly couldn’t get myself to watch more than an episode and a half. This only means that I know nothing about what makes for riveting television, because the show's getting huge TRPs, and it's already a huge hit straight out of the box.
The show’s high-falutin tagline – ‘Jo tikega, itihaas likhega’ (Whoever lasts, will write history) – sounds perfect for Mitt Romney following his New Hampshire dream run. But what is this history-making show about?
In a nutshell, a motley crew of faux celebrities and ordinary people have been placed on an island in the Phillipines. These 22 people are split into two groups with no food, drinking water or electricity. They rough it out while competing in slightly inane competitions to win luxuries like bed sheets and refreshments, even as they vote each other off the island. The man/woman standing wins a crore of rupees.
I had difficulty recognising the contestants, which says a lot because I am usually an expert on trashy unknown celebrities. But for the record, they include: hairstylist Sylvie, TV actress Shilpa, Payal Rohatgi (who seems to be a professional reality TV contestant), hotelier Timmy Narang, and Simi’s tarot reader. The last being entirely understandable since being stranded on an island in the Phillipines sans toothpaste and deodorant is a fate better than being stuck on Simi’s show. The non-celebs include a wrestler, an overweight call centre employee (quickly voted out for being too fat), a fashion stylist, a model, an NRI radio jockey and some other very forgettable people.
And this wondrous bunch of people is presided over by the saving grace of the show, host Sameer Kochar.
In the first episode, the contestants formed two tribes with strange names. The Catan tribe consisted of the fringe celebrities and the Tayak of the hoi polloi. The two groups then took part in a slightly demented challenge that involved lots of jumping, water, and wooden carts to win a fire kit and some nuts and dal. Yaay!
The next episode had the two groups throw a red ball at a target, while the opposing team’s member stood on a floating platform and played goal keeper. The winners got tea leaves, milk, sugar and chocolate cookies as a reward. Gripping stuff.
Both tribes were also given a live rooster and some chickens, which the non-celebs decided to look after and keep for their eggs. The celebs immediately butchered and ate theirs. Behaviour which is obviously symptomatic of the cut-throat industry they work in.
What is more interesting than the tasks is that 22 people stuck together with no deodorant, soap or toothpaste. The show should really be named the Great Unwashed. I am most intrigued as to how they wash their underwear or even if they wash their underwear.
And it's not just about surviving without toothpaste, but also canoodling without deodorant.
TV actors Karan and Priyanka are already nuzzling each other in all their unwashed wonder, and the gossip pages have promised us more, as in the sight of wrestler Sangram Singh canoodling with Payal Rohatgi.
There are other horrific sights on as well: Sylvie slowly turning a shade of lobster red in the sun. The contestants – other than Shilpa who seems to be to the island born – are already looking the worse for wear, with frizzy hair, blistering skin and all sorts of allergic eruptions on their body. I wouldn’t be surprised if the next competition has them picking lice from their competitor’s hair.
That this is all we will have for weekend viewing in coming months is most disheartening. And you can’t but wish that the tribes, instead of turning on poultry, will chase each other through the island screaming, ‘Kill! Kill! Kill!” a la Lord of the Flies. Now that would be a survivor show worth tuning into every weekend.
Rajyasree Sen is a bona fide foodie, TV connoisseur and unsolicited opinion-giver. You can read about her adventures with food and life in Delhi on her blog or follow her at @rajyasree