'Survivor' Has Officially Lost All Faith In Its Elegantly Simple Concept Jimmy Johnson, legendary coach of the Dallas Cowboys, is just the latest innovation demonstrating that Survivor no longer cares about being the simple, surprisingly compelling game it once was.
NPR logo 'Survivor' Has Officially Lost All Faith In Its Elegantly Simple Concept

'Survivor' Has Officially Lost All Faith In Its Elegantly Simple Concept

One of these things is not like the others. You might notice among the cast of Survivor: Nicaragua one Jimmy Johnson. Yes, the very famous football coach, whose presence is just the latest tweak to a show that didn't need tweaking. Monty Brinton/CBS Entertainment hide caption

toggle caption
Monty Brinton/CBS Entertainment

What originally made Survivor interesting was the simplicity of its basic idea: people voted off one by one until only two people remain, at which point those who have been booted vote for a winner. It's sort of deliciously diabolical and -- let's say it again -- simple.

Over time, the show has complicated its approach over and over (tribe shuffles, three in the final phase instead of two, the awful "hidden immunity idol" innovation), and now, it's apparently giving up on its core concept entirely.

It's been the worst-kept secret in television, but indeed, Jimmy Johnson (the incredibly famous, instantly recognizable football coach) is coming to the upcoming season, Survivor: Nicaragua -- the one that pits "young" versus "old." E! also reports that in addition to the existing stupid twists that have been added to the game, there will be something called a "Medallion Of Power" that will give one team an advantage in the challenges.

Because if there's one thing Survivor needed, it was another reason not to just have people battle it out.

So let's see: Extremely famous person to unavoidably unbalance the personal politics that are always the most interesting part of the show. "Medallion Of Power" to unavoidably unbalance every challenge. Presumably, more "hidden immunity idols" to unavoidably unbalance the voting. "Old versus young" to unavoidably unbalance the tribes.

Essentially, the show has gone from a relatively straightforward competition where the suspense comes from actual winning and losing and strategy to a series of allegedly exciting developments that structurally tip power to different people at different times and in different ways. It's like the NFL deciding that at instead of dividing the game into quarters, you'd divide it into tenths, and at the beginning of every tenth, you'd flip a coin to see which team had to play that tenth with sandbags tied around its ankles.

You'd be invested in each coin flip, sure, but you wouldn't see much of a game.