Survivor 20 debuts; heroes and villains ranked

Tonight, Survivor Heroes vs. Villains debuts with a two-hour episode at 8 p.m. ET on CBS. What’s perhaps most amazing about the debut of the 20th season for me is that I’ve kept watching for 19 seasons. My short attention span and I lose interest in other shows, especially as they age and start to suck for various reasons. But while Survivor has had some so-so seasons, and occasionally starts off slowly, it’s never not been appointment TV for me.

Here are some other thoughts about the anniversary: In The Daily Beast, I consider why the series has survived and what it did for television. In Metro, I give a quick summary of each season and highlight what stands out to me. (That was surprisingly difficult for a few seasons.) And on msnbc.com, I make the case for why all-star seasons usually aren’t my favorite.

Having concluded my series of interviews with the cast, it’s now time to rank them. I’ve never liked predictions, because especially with a game like this, there are too many variables. And with this group especially, it seems more difficult than usual to predict how they’ll do, and how much I like or dislike them is clouded by more than just a half hour with them. (Some of my favorites are in the center of the pack below.)

So, this list is how much they surprised me, ranked from the most surprising–generally, a combination of their honesty, candor, strategy, and attitude–to the least surprising and thus most predictable in their responses:

  1. Ben “Coach” Wade
  2. Candice Woodcock
  3. Jessica “Sugar” Kiper
  4. Colby Donaldson
  5. Sandra Diaz-Twine
  6. Rupert Boneham
  7. Tom Westman
  8. Tyson Apostol
  9. Courtney Yates
  10. Amanda Kimmel
  11. Stephenie LaGrossa
  12. Parvati Shallow
  13. Cirie Fields
  14. Jerri Manthey
  15. JT Thomas
  16. James Clement
  17. Randy Bailey
  18. Rob Mariano
  19. Danielle DiLorenzo
  20. Russell Hantz

The Sing-Off loses its star

Ben Folds

NBC's super-fun December a capella singing competition The Sing-Off is returning, but without its star judge, Ben Folds, and only as a two-hour special. Those are really depressing changes for a series that proved itself to be a super-fun show when it returned last December.


A film director talks about becoming a reality TV character

Anna Martemucci

What is it like to have your life turned into reality TV? Director Anna Martemucci, one of the two directors featured on Starz' exceptional reality series, talks about that, the competition, and her collaboration with her husband and brother-in-law.

Plus: How the show's producers tried to keep the $250,000 competition fair.

about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.