12 days of reality TV: Richard Hatch in a tree

There’s nowhere else to start this 12 Days of Reality TV feature except with Survivor. On its anniversary, I explained why it still matters, but didn’t focus on one thing that was especially important: character. And though everyone that first season was an amazing character, you can pretty much sum that up with Richard Hatch sitting in a tree.

Greg wrote in (you can still contribute), suggesting that day one be “Richard Hatch in a Bare Tree,” and that was too perfect. Watching Richard Hatch perched above his tribe as they argued about what to do first at camp was such an incredible moment, one that became more meaningful after he won, but is even more meaningful now. Remember Dr. Sean voting in season one by choosing people’s names alphabetically? Without Hatch’s big picture and strategic thinking, which led to his alliance, the season and reality TV wouldn’t have been the same. Sure, someone would have thought to be more strategic than Sean. But Richard Hatch made sure no one ever had a choice.

The strength of his personality also made sure we were thoroughly entertained, even when he was being completely obnoxious. That made the finale all the more insane, because we kinda hated him yet kinda thought he should win, too. And without Richard Hatch—and the first season’s strong characters like Sue Hawk and Rudy Boesch who taught the television world that real people could be more entertaining than actors—we wouldn’t have been given amazing gifts like this, which still makes me laugh:

Important

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