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Archive for Thursday, February 11, 2010

‘Survivor’ still kicking after 20 seasons

February 11, 2010

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“Survivor” (7 p.m., CBS) celebrates its 20th season with a “Heroes & Villains” round. This edition recycles familiar faces, some more familiar than others, having already returned for an “All Star” round some years back.

This long-in-the-tooth franchise has become as comfortably uncreative as a repeat of “Hollywood Squares.”

“Survivor” seemed young and fresh when it first appeared back in 2000 because it showcased everyday people capable of doing and saying just about anything. Tired of the hackneyed writing that passed for sitcom scripts, viewers reveled in the curiously “real” exchanges between Richard Hatch and Rudy.

“Survivor” and reality shows dating back to “The Real World” demonstrated the power of television cameras to turn just about “anybody” into a star. And over the years we’ve seen a flood of exhibitionist “anybodies” from the “Real World”’s Puck to “The Situation” of “Jersey Shore” fame.

I’m sure some viewers will love watching Rupert or Jerri Manthey on their third trip to the “Survivor” rodeo. But to the rest of us, such tired stunt casting is a sure sign that the show is dying.

• Speaking of shows that turn ordinary folks into “stars,” the long-running “American Choppers” (8 p.m., TLC) airs its series finale tonight. Set in a custom motorcycle shop in Orange County, N.Y., the series offered a nice blend of workplace hijinks and inspired creativity with intergenerational banter between the gruff father and goofball sons.

Seven years is a long time for any series. And just as the TLC hit “Jon & Kate” fell apart when marriage gave way to acrimony, the fun and games on “Chopper” have been replaced by lawsuits between family members.

In many ways, shows like “Chopper” and “Cake Boss” are cut-priced sitcoms featuring a non-union cast. Nobody likes to watch a comedy team argue. America loved Lucy and Ricky, but nobody wanted to watch Lucy and Desi get divorced. Nearly 60 years later, it’s the same sad story: When the stars stop talking, the show gets canceled.

Tonight’s other highlights

• A tennis player doesn’t feel the love on “The Deep End” (7 p.m., ABC).

• The new CEO (Kathy Bates) pays a personal visit to Scranton on “The Office” (8 p.m., NBC).

• An addict’s memories of another life may help a death row inmate on “Past Life” (8 p.m., Fox).

• Jon Bon Jovi cameos on a Valentine’s Day-themed episode of “30 Rock” (8:30 p.m., NBC)

• Cho’s former colleague becomes a statistic on “The Mentalist” (9 p.m., CBS).

• Contestants vie for magazine exposure on “Project Runway” (9 p.m., Lifetime)

• Michael snatches a vital itinerary on “Burn Notice” (9 p.m., USA).

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