Wednesday, October 10, 2001

Lifestyle

Escapism returns
CBS hopes America tunes into new season of `Survivor: Africa'

Laura Dempsey
Cox News Service

Series creator Mark Burnett says the first episode of "Survivor: Africa" on Thursday "goes from zero to 60 in about one second."

He believes that three minutes into the show, we'll all be saying the same thing: "They're back."

And then he hopes we'll come back, week after week -- despite the frowning, questioning, critical mass that wonders aloud whether such a show, with such a name, is quite appropriate at this time.

Now, possibly more than ever, Burnett says, "really, re
ally good entertainment is desperately needed. Escapism is quite a good thing right now for all of us."

Even so, with the tragic deaths of thousands hovering over the country like a still-black cloud, it's possible that we will turn to other forms of really, really good escapist entertainment and away from 16 cagey, manipulative Americans whose bottom line is cash.

Or maybe not.

In its admittedly limited run -- two four-month installments -- "Survivor" has proved to be a ratings blockbuster. Last spring's Outback adventures set records and brought in undisclosed millions for Burnett and CBS.

He's just doing his job, he said, which is to "keep his head down and try to deliver to (CBS president) Mr. Moonves on a weekly basis the best I can deliver.

"`Survivor 3' is the best. The music is off-the-charts awesome, the character development and interaction is unbelievable. It's the best first episode we could ever hope for. And the backdrop of Africa -- elephants, giraffes, zebras -- there's a whole different element."

He confirms little, but will admit a few changes while saying nothing's really different. Asked about a rumored three-tribe configuration staged to somehow shake up emerging alliances, Burnett said only that there are "some unique changes, interesting twists that will make you laugh."


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