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Survivor Maldives

Not-Jeff and The Pink Heart Of Darkness

by Brandon Edmonds / 04.03.2011

Good writing is a unicorn on local television: it doesn’t exist. The first ten minutes of the new local season of Survivor got everything wrong. The editing was glacial. The soundtrack timid and ineffectual. The visuals rote and enervating. And the writing. Dunkin’ donuts the writing! A gratuitous BBC voiceover (the kind all over apartheid media in the 70s) spews this pointless cant: “It may seem like a Barnum & Bailey world, it may seem like a penal colony, a last mad fling of Empire, it may seem like a coral paradise…it isn’t.” He’s talking about the Maldives where this season will go down. Does any of that tell you anything you need or want to know about the Maldives? And what the fuck is a Barnum & Bailey world? And why would you deliberately orient a flagship show to appeal exclusively to desiccated Anglophiles, who still yearn for the glory days of Springbok radio, when you’re up against Sookie Stackhouse in hotpants for Christ’s sake?

We learned nothing about the island nation, its people or pastimes. Instead the show fixated on a dull factoid that the far flung archipelago was once a covert military base during, as clenched lunkhead presenter, 7de Laan’s Nico Panagio, put it, “the time of the Cold War”. Oh yeah that time. The time of VHS, super tense Olympics and brick-like cellphones you carried in a slingbag. We’ll call Nico “Not-Jeff” (given the breezy alpha assuredness of his superior American counterpart). Not-Jeff makes playing Host look thankless and hard. Dude you’re getting paid to be in the Maldives in shorts. Relax.

Survivor Maldives

There is an off-putting, ill-judged brutalism to the local version of the long-running reality franchise. A hard-edged Staaldraad South African thing that also ruined the local attempt at Fear Factor. A humorless something that sinks any chance of grace or tenderness. Crime and grind has turned us all into Terminators. Regular contestants are labeled “Plebs” (a shitty word that has no business being a regular screen graphic). They’re soon “banished” to a bare-knuckle sliver of an island in ugly prison fatigues that look awful on TV while “Celebrities” (is that really the right word for the blonde void who played Wickus’ wife in D9 or the Parsons kid from Isidingo?) are made to abandon ship and paddle home in their cocktail best. Parsons can’t swim for shit. “A swimming pool in Broadacres and the sea are very different!”

The transitional scenes that make the original Survivor occasionally sensual and interesting (vivid National Geographic interludes of snakes being snakes) are absent here. The local version is slow where it needs to be urgent and dumb when its needs to be alert. And really the contestants suck. Their dialogue is slop, received opinions, rote maxims and inevitable self-help malarkey – its like being on a Translux. Are we generally less educated than Americans? Shouldn’t Model C schools be burnt to the ground and lets just like start over from scratch? “Let the games begin,” someone says. “Oh my word this is hectic!”

Oafish Hykie (an actor or something) is drawn immediately into an “early alliance” with fellow Afrikaaner Jacques (he sings and dates an FHM model) who rocks highlights and the kind of silky bland Highveld prettiness State Prosecutors pay good money for on weekends. The sublime Bonnie Mbuli is married now and all filled out which makes her even hotter somehow and she’s lost none of her slowburning bemusement: “Seriously hey this island. There’s nothing here except rats, trees and lots of branches!” Win it Bonnie. Win it all.

Survivor Maldives

Things pick up a tad when steroidal He-man Lukhanyo (a rugby player) gets all existential on our asses: “You’re actually alone here even though there are other people. They also need to find themselves.” His enlightenment doesn’t stretch far. “He’s a patriarch,” someone says, and in a rare moment of inspired direction we cut to the ectomorph himself lifting something heavy after brushing a woman aside with “Don’t worry about it – that’s men’s stuff.” Later he takes a pretty contender out for a strategy session in the ocean, telling her “I will win all the Immunities! If I bleed I bleed for you. If you bleed you bleed for me.” Eeuw. Her creeped out “Thanks!” is priceless.

During the immunity challenges, Not-Jeff shifts from tolerably annoying to actively infuriating. He will not shut up! Why is he doing radio on the TV? It’s the kind of redundant narration that ruined Vicki Christina Barcelona. “Teamwork is very important here,” he says. “Yellow team runs to their demarcated zone.” No really? Is that what they’re doing? Because I’ve never seen people run before. He tells us nothing about the Immunity Idol. Does it mean anything to the people of the Maldives? This show has all the cultural sensitivity of Khuli Roberts after Jaeger-bombs. “A lot of talking,” Not-Jeff says, “not much action.” That, Alanis, is ironic. And then we are saved by a thrilling force of evil in pink. Her name is Roxy and she was a K-TV presenter. She’s barely formed but armed with the wiles of a seasoned Vegas card-shark. She hoodwinks Parsons into thinking she let him start a fire. “Tshepo definitely wants to be like a dominant alpha so I was like well this is how you do it but you can take the glory for making us fire!” The way her voice softened on the word “fire” suggests Roxy has a future on Broadway as Lady Macbeth. She didn’t really know how to start the fire. She then looks at the camera and tells us something that proves you don’t need a jungle to find the Heart of Darkness (just look into the heart of a K-TV presenter): “I don’t necessarily know that my true-true personality will ever come out in this game. Because my true personality would get me voted out very quickly!”

The rugby guy was voted off. Celebrities ate rats. I’ll be back for Roxy.

Survivor Maldives

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RESPONSES (17)
  1. Nathan Casey says:

    At first, I couldn’t tell who the plebs and who the celebs were. Maybe a musicians versus actors next year – the guys from the Hogs vs the okes from Isidingo.

    Kak show, great review.

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  2. ticklemouse says:

    Yah, who the feck are those so-called ‘celebs’? Never heard of one of them before and sure don’t recognise a single face. Sad, pathetic, loser show.

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  3. brandon edmonds says:

    Fuck it’s ‘mesomorph’ / not ‘ectomorph’. duh. I need a holiday in Mozambique. /Users/admin/Desktop/3bodytypes.gif

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  4. Lame-o says:

    Excellent! I didn’t see the show but I can just imagine.

    Why do South Africans never do things as well as in the UK/US? I have two theories:

    1. cultural isolation and deliberate insularity (a lot of people are just not interested in what is going on outside SA)

    2. A ‘good enough’ attitude as opposed to ‘It must surpass expectations every single time’

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  5. D.A.F. says:

    Brandon, haven’t you realised yet. We’re a nation of dumb-as-fuck retards too fucking dumb to realise that we are a nation of dumb as fuck retards, with a significant percentage of those dumb as fuck retards considering themselves to be rare and enlightened beings. The average Saffa is as deep as the blurb on a Simba chip packet, and about as intellectually sophisticated – actually that’s just the ‘intellectuals’. Just listen to people mouthing off about how we’re the ‘most beautiful country on Earth’ after extensive global travels that include East London, Heathrow and the Kruger Park via Blikkiesfontein. Take an American, fuck them in the ear with a machete, piss in the hole, top up with hydrochloric acid and you still have something extensively brighter than your average Power Band-ehanced Saffa fuck. Fucksakes.

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  6. JJ says:

    This whole article just made my life! I stopped watching local television many years ago. The cringe factor is just too high. Keen to see your write-up on the upcoming idols!

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  7. mega-douche says:

    It’s the show I love to hate. And comparing ours to the USA is a touch unfair, as i imagine they have 20 times the budget. Not that that’s an excuse for the moronic, cringeworthy stuff going on. Ha! and the sunburn! You’d think folk from sunny south africa would understand sunburn, but no! Gotta show off the flesh! Roxy is foxy. Bonnie rules. I’m hooked, and yelling abuse. xoxo

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  8. brandon edmonds says:

    That’s true actually I didn’t stop to think about the giant budget divide.

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  9. D.A.F. says:

    And one of the main things that makes us dumb as fuck is the television. Brandon, if Gramsci knew you were watching this shit sitting on your fat bourgeois ass he’d spin in his grave like the turbine in a fucking Tupolev jet engine.

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  10. Marge says:

    Great article! Can’t have said it better – need more TV crits like this!

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  11. Lame-o says:

    Budget divide is no excuse, most of the truly good movies nowadays are the low-budget ones.

    Although –– they could have sprung for proper bathing suits for those people in the first photo? The front view of the lady must have been quite revealing!

    Television isn’t necessarily dumb, either… think of The Sopranos, The Wire… and I saw an excellent BBC documentary recently on Caster Semenya, that no one in SA had clearly thought to produce.

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  12. Lame-o says:

    Hey, this would be interesting – approaching the producers for a comment. They should be able to defend their choices and be aware that they are being held up to a certain standard… even if this is trash TV.

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  13. Anonymous says:

    I’d rather that a dog with diarrhea farted in my face than watch this rubbish. That goes for most tv actually. Great write-up

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  14. mega-douche says:

    true, the budget divide is no real excuse. Ultimately it’s the bland and idiotic contestants that ruin the hopes of making a good show. If the show had a higher status, and production value, i guess more interesting folk would submit entries. But taking two months off work to go camping with treacherous, lecherous, fist-pumping mouth-breathers probably does not appeal to sensible people. Well, maybe not. I generally loathe the players (with the exception of guys like last season’s Darren Maule). I laughed hard when he uttered the immortal :”do not speak krud in the vicinity of my visage” Oh, and when Christina Storm told us that she’d had a baby, and was “very close to her child”, and then walk off the show. Hey, wasn’t jub-jub there with a dick-rash? So yes, i love to hate that mindless, inane, vain and shitty show. Unmissable, sadly for me.

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  15. Anonymous says:

    Everyone with opinion how are you means you watchin the show its all good we need every critic.its boring without haters.dont you think so

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  16. Only saying.... says:

    Whaaaat!! You guys actually think the US show is any better???? The only person worth watching on ANY survivor is Jeff….and we like to watch the challenges. Any heartfelt outpouring is cringe-worthy, be it Saffers or Yanks. My theory is that we recognise the cliches when the Saffers speak and that makes it doubly excruciating.
    Please continue with the commentary…it it infinitely better than the show.

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  17. Michelle says:

    Let’s just call you Not-MNet for clarity purposes. If you don’t have anything good to say, stop watching TV and go amuse yourself somewhere else. I’d like to see you try to survive out there like these people do. And by the way, where did you get these pics? They belong to M-Net and you, Not-MNet, can get into serious trouble! We’d like to call it Copyright, in case you did not know 😉

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