Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Despite tsunami tragedy, Survivor: Samoa to air as scheduled



The Survivor: Samoa cast -- Ashley Trainer, Monica Padilla, Brett Clouser, Natalie White, Jaison Robinson, Marisa Calihan (bottom row, L-R), Erik Cardona, Betsy Bolan, Mick Trimming, Dave Ball, John Fincher, Laura Morett, Russell Swan, Kelly Sharbaugh, Ben Browning, Russell Hantz, Shannon “Shambo” Waters, Elizabeth Kim and Mike Borassi (top row, L-R).

Every so often, harsh reality intrudes on reality TV.

That was never more true than Tuesday afternoon, as word emerged from the South Pacific that a tsunami triggered by a strong undersea earthquake killed at least 28 people on the island nations of Samoa and American Samoa.

Survivor was filmed this past summer on the major island of Upolu, and so the tsunami did not have a direct effect on the program’s production. Upolu was reported to be one of the hardest-hit regions, however.

There was a chance early Wednesday that CBS might pull the episode, out of respect to the tsunami victims, or else broadcast a public service announcement for flood relief.

Survivor: Samoa is broadcast in Canada by Global TV, and is one of this country’s most watched prime-time entertainment programs, with an estimated weekly audience of more than 2.5 million viewers, according to BBM Canada.

Earlier this summer, CBS replaced a repeat episode of CSI: New York set in Athens during the same week out-of-control brush fires threatened much of southern Greece.

In Survivor’s 10-year, 19-edition history, the program’s producers have had a history of supporting charitable causes and relief operations throughout the developing world in countries where the popular reality series was based.

Proceeds from the sale of clothing and artifacts from last year’s Survivor: Gabon were donated to The Alliance for Children’s Rights and Survivor host Jeff Probst’s Serpentine Project. Similarly, proceeds from a commemorative organic cotton Survivor: Gabon T-shirt, designed by U2 singer Bono and his wife Ali Hewson for their socially conscious clothing line Edun Live, were directed to a program promoting sustainable employment throughout sub-Saharan Africa.

Survivor: Samoa is scheduled to air weekly throughout the fall and early winter, until the program’s live finale and reunion show in mid-December. It is possible that, depending on the seriousness of reports emanating from the South Pacific late Wednesday, the production will become actively involved in raising funds for those displaced by the tsunami.

Reports say an 8.3-magnitude earthquake struck the South Pacific region some 190 kilometres southwest of the main Samoan town of Apia at 1748 GMT, generating 4.5-metre waves across both Samoa and American Samoa.

Many of the more remote, far-flung island areas are only a metre or two above sea level. The Red Cross reported that at least 14 people had been killed in both Samoa and American Samoa, according to Agence France-Presse.

There were unconfirmed reports of “bodies everywhere” in a regional hospital on Upolu, according to the BBC.

Despite the apparent seriousness and loss of life from Tuesday’s tsunami, early reports from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration suggested that the quake contained just three per cent of the energy generated by the December 2004 earthquake that caused the Indonesian tsunami which killed more than 200,000 people in 11 countries.

Barring a last-minute change, Survivor: Samoa is scheduled to air Thursday at 8 ET/PT on both Global and CBS.

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