How Survivor winner Cochran got a job writing for a CBS sitcom

If you watch CBS’ new sitcom The Millers tonight, you’ll notice a familiar name in the credits: Survivor Caramoan winner John Cochran, credited as a writer. How did a two-time contestant go from Harvard Law to such a coveted job in Hollywood?

It’s because the show’s creator, Greg Garcia, was watching the Survivor reunion.

That’s what Cochran told me when I asked him about it recently, when he was in the middle of 10 weeks of pre-production before 20 weeks of production on the new series. When Probst asked what he wanted to do after graduating law school, “I answered honestly and said, ‘I want to write in some capacity.’” Cochran said he could have given “some goofy answer, some joke answer, but fortunately I gave an honest answer.”

On Monday, Survivor host Jeff Probst “called me, all excited, saying, ‘Oh my god, you won’t believe what happened: Greg Gracia, the creator of My Name is Earl and Raising Hope was watching the reunion show. He was watching the show all season long, thought you were funny, and wants to meet with you at his house.’ This is a day after the finale, when I’m still reeling from everything.”

Cochran met with Garcia, and “a few days later, I get a job offer to write for this show, with virtually no experience–which is bizarre.” Cochran admits that “it’s not the most endearing background story for people that have been trying to break into the industry for a million years.”

Greg Garcia joked that seeing Cochran on the show was “love at first site,” and told me, “He’s been great, he’s having a great time, everybody loves him. He’s contributing; he’s a funny guy.”

Alas, despite the incredible talent involved, including actors Will Arnett and Margo Martindale, the sitcom is getting bad reviews, and critics say its “hackneyed, overly broad ‘humor’” make it “a waste of everyone’s time and ability.”

CBS is smartly taking advantage of Cochran’s popularity and notoriety to promote the show, producing a series of cheesy and partially scripted videos, “Surviving LA: Cochran Takes on the Millers”; Jeff Probst appears in the second one.

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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.