Survivor has been on CBS for 40 seasons and almost 20 years, and in that time, we’ve learned a lot about the secrets of what happens behind the scenes on the reality TV competition, and how it comes together.
As Survivor: Winners at War season 40 comes to its conclusion, it’s a great opportunity to look back at some of the secrets—well, former secrets!—that have been revealed about how Survivor is produced.
While its had weak seasons and a few horrifying screw-ups, Survivor is an impressive production that required a lot of behind-the-scenes talent, from casting producers to the composer of the theme song, challenge designers to those who test the challenges.
I’ve gathered together these 13 stories—some of my favorites—which offer various kinds of deep dives into how Survivor comes together week after week, season after season. Enjoy!
Producers tell the cast what to wear—and even buy their clothes! John Cochran's sweater vest? He never owned one; it was purchased for him by the production.
Jeff Probst quit as Survivor's host in 2009, but he obviously changed his mind—in part because he came back with new job responsibilities.
Lynne Spillman is responsible for finding some of TV's most iconic characters, starting with Rich, Rudy, Kelly, and Sue. But Jeff Probst recently fired her.
In the Survivor rules, contestants learn about everything from how much they'll be paid to what behavior is prohibited. See the exact document that contestants are given before the game begins.
Look at the actual Survivor contract: the waivers, agreements that cast members sign—and also the documents their family members have to sign, too.
Probst's iconic shirts used to be dyed, off-the-rack clothes, but not any more.
They're called the Survivor Dream Team, and they're the people you see when there are helicopter shots of the challenges. Also: It takes 18 people to build Trial Council!
Among the many behind-the-scenes details Jeff Probst discussed in this podcast interview is why the show moved to Fiji instead of shifting to a new location every season.
When host Jeff Probst provides color commentary for challenges, he sometimes ends up saying things that sound like jokes—and they are.
The contestants vote however they want, but the producers arrange those votes in the most dramatic order possible.
I was part of a few challenge rehearsals, but none hurt as much as Schmergen Brawl, which ended up making Survivor history and also left me with a hurt finger and a camera operator with a bruised rib.
The host of Survivor had previously been in “over 250 corporate videos” and was the “principle actor in over 150 commercials." Jimmy Fallon shared Probst's demo reel on his show, and the clips are amazing.
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