CBS was planning to cancel Survivor after Micronesia

CBS executives and Survivor producers expected to end the series after its 16th season, but changed their mind thanks to Survivor China, which aired last fall.

Entertainment Weekly’s brief and generally masturbatory piece about Survivor Micronesia‘s debut (We pointlessly went to Micronesia! You did not!) reveals that this season “was supposed to be it: the end of Survivor.” The reason: lower ratings and the feeling that “the show simply wasn’t very good. Spring 2007’s Survivor: Fiji was an unmitigated disaster, plagued by a misguided twist … and a lackluster cast that provided few memorable moments,” the magazine reports.

“A lot of us thought maybe the end was on the horizon,” CBS executive Kelly Kahl said. Jeff Probst told EW, “I was mentally prepared to be done,” and cites the Fiji season as the primary reason. “You cast people, you build your creative ideas into the show, and sometimes your creative doesn’t work, and your casting doesn’t work. Sometimes you end up with Fiji. We would have loved to have just erased that season,” he said.

I’m not quite sure that I buy this line of thinking, which Jeff Probst repeated during his call with reporters last week. Fiji ended with the show’s biggest backstab/lie, and while having a camp with luxury items was a stupid twist, the show remained in the top 12 and gave us Yau-Man. It may be far from the best season ever, but does it really deserve this kind of criticism? And who would cancel a show that’s in the top 12?

Anyway, Jeff Probst tells the magazine that after season 20–the show has only been renewed for two more seasons, through 18 as of right now–the show would likely be over. “We could hit 20 seasons! That would be the end. I can tell you, if we hit season 20, that would be it. And you can ask me about that when we’re on 19.”

On the call last week, Probst did say that he thinks one good way to go out would be to reunited all of the show’s winners for a final (21st?) season, but said, “we have to wait for [Richard] Hatch to get out of prison.” Conveniently, he’ll be out in October 2009, right on schedule to tape a 20th season.

“Survivor”: Dalton Ross on Location [Entertainment Weekly]