CBS has yet to officially announce the renewal of Survivor past season 20, but when it does, there are major changes coming: The show will keep up what it started in Samoa and use just one location a year for two seasons, and producers are considering including returning cast members during one of the two seasons every year.
First, if the show is renewed, it will stay with the back-to-back production schedule that started last summer, and was entirely about saving money. The application for seasons 21 and 22, which is due tomorrow, confirms this, as it says contestants “must be willing to travel to a remote location selected by Producers for seven (7) weeks for a period between summer and early fall 2010.” Previously, the spring season was shot from late October through December.
Back-to-back seasons means the production does not move, and every other time the show has shot in the same location, they’ve had a twist for subsequent seasons (Pearl Islands, All-Stars, Exile Island; Samoa, Heroes vs. Villains), in order to make the same place more interesting.
I’ve learned that one plan involves bringing back past cast members for one of those two seasons a year, essentially meaning that every other season would be some kind of all-star season. That plan is at the very least, being discussed, and the motivation for that is in part financial, as finding, interviewing, and screening potential contestants is far more expensive than just calling back old cast members. It’s also less risky in terms of finding strong characters, because as good as casting is, sometimes there are Bretts.
Undoubtedly, the every-other-season all-star season would be themed, perhaps to some of the long-rumored (or long-wished for) all-star structures, like bringing back those who were medically evacuated or evicted first for a second chance. As of season 20, CBS has a pool of 301 people to draw from. And those seasons could mix all-star and new contestants, as Survivor Micronesia did.
Again, at this point, this is not absolute; like casts, season twists sometimes aren’t locked in until just before that season starts. How well viewers receive Survivor Heroes vs. Villains could play a role, too, in encouraging or discouraging the future inclusion of all-stars. But if it means saving money and getting higher ratings, you can bet that’s the direction CBS will take.