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Host Probst defends division by race in 'Survivor'



Published: Mon, September 11, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



Don't judge the show before you see it, the host urges.

By RICHARD HUFF

NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

"Survivor" host Jeff Probst urged naysayers of the new, ethnically divided edition of the reality show to give it time before putting it down.

CBS and "Survivor" producer Mark Burnett came under fire when it was revealed that the contestants for "Survivor: Cook Islands" would be divided into four teams by race.

"A lot of people who have never seen 'Survivor' have absolutely no idea what they're condemning and using this as a platform," Probst told reporters last week.

Some local politicians slammed the show when it was announced, and some readers complained, too.

"This could be really big," wrote reader Lynnwood Brown. "Next, they can do 'Religious Survivor' using teams of Jews, Muslims and Christians. For the ultimate finale, we can have 'Nuclear Survivor,' that should be really good."

How this came about

In the past, "Survivor" had been knocked for not offering up ethnically diverse casts. So, when the creative team behind the show got together to plan this season, they made sure the cast was ethnically diverse.

It was through the casting process -- and talking to the potential contestants -- that the decision was made to at the start split the teams into ethnic groups. "We actually felt that dividing them ethnically was a positive idea, because it came from our discussions in casting, and we kept coming up with the same theme, which was ethnic pride," he said.

"When you're talking with a group of white people, it doesn't come up," he said. Probst wouldn't say how long it would be before the teams are split and mixed -- a standard practice on "Survivor."

An overwhelming majority of the people who apply to "Survivor" through traditional channels are white, according to Probst. That required the casting staff to look outside of the normal places.

"Once we decided we were going to have the most ethnically diverse cast in the history of TV, it required us to go out and find these people," he said. "It was the biggest casting endeavor we've done in 13 seasons."

Probst said Burnett decided to go back to the type of opening they started with the very first "Survivor," where the players are on a ship and must grab what supplies they can before going into the water.

CBS is not releasing any portions of the show to critics before Thursday's telecast.




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