A Matter of Survival

The first episodes of the Israeli version of 'Survivor' don't live up to the advertisement hype that preceded them.

The way in which Channel 10 promoted the Israeli version of "Survivor" over the last few weeks, and especially last week, was so aggressive and invasive (during the Maccabi basketball game last Thursday night there was hardly a moment when the show wasn't advertised, with a stopwatch counting down the minutes until its broadcast, banners on the screen during the game and of course, during the breaks with commercials), that yesterday morning, ahead of the release of the ratings for the show on Saturday night, one almost hoped that the new series would fail in its mission.

Channel 10 placed almost everything in this basket of "Survivor." As of next week, it will drop original programs such as "The Wise Council" and "Money Talks," which until last Saturday were broadcast that very same night, in favor of reruns of what happened on "Survivor" on Friday. Advertising space and billboards were bought to promote this lineup, not to mention a press conference and an interview on the "Tonight with Lior Shlein" show. While watching the television broadcast of "Survivor" on Saturday night (which was almost only interrupted by advertisements for the final episode of "Krav Sakinim" [Knife Fight]), it quickly became apparent that in its final Hebrew version, the entertainment format contained too much tradition. In the double episode, which aired Saturday night, one of the contestants recited the blessings over the Sabbath. Another one was so moved by this and recalled that "we're all Jews," and a third related that she brought a copy of the book of Psalms in her suitcase. In other words, the Israeli producers managed to accomplish the unthinkable: They took a slightly disgusting format - voyeuristic and of low cultural value - and made it even more disgusting. Congratulations.

From a strictly television perspective, the production of the new series was impressive. With every zap back to the "Born to Dance" studio on Channel 2 (which surprisingly kept the ad time to a minimum), one could sense the beat slowing a little more, discern another drop in the level of the production and it was impossible to shake the feeling of watching something we've already seen.

The hope for some kind of disappointment for Channel 10 did not stem, heaven forbid, from a love of the enemy - after all Channel 2 also did not fail to make use of every tactic in this regard; it also had a stopwatch counting down to "Born to Dance," banners and ads and it even seemed that the news program was more lighthearted. But no one expects Channel 2 to act differently. In short, the hope was for Channel 10's reality shows and massive ad campaign to be defeated, not the young channel itself.

However, it was hard not to despair when it did happen - even if only 13.6 percent of the population tuned in, and although it was rated in 16th place on the weekly ratings chart, topped by programs such as "Mishpaha Horeget" [Step Family] and a rerun of "Ketzarim." Next Friday, opposite its "Only in Israel" and "Laugh Summit," Keshet's doomsday weapons planned for this Friday, it will be even harder for Channel 10 to achieve high ratings. And come the beginning of January, it is quite possible that viewers will be curious to see Reshet's new and endlessly touted reality show, "Grease." Until then, the number of new viewers joining the existing "Survivor" audience might decline. What is for sure is that the survival skills of Channel 2's hegemony seem stronger than ever.