Of Sumo and ‘Survivor’

Mar 21, 2005  •  Post A Comment

The Insider, who gets winded simply watching the unremitting amped-up challenges on “Survivor: Palau,” has learned that the grueling weeding-out process over the first five episodes could have been worse!

The forced slog through the rising tide while shouldering knapsacks filled with 20 pounds of sand in episode three was inspired by a gantlet scene in the Richard Gere movie “First Knight.” However, the task lost some of its edge in translation to the small screen.

“CBS wouldn’t let us use razor blades, knives and swords, so we used backpacks filled with sand,” said producer John Kirhoffer, who, along with producer Dan Munday, creates and refines the reality hit’s challenges with inspiration from a variety of sources and people.

Five episodes into “Survivor: Palau,” which began with a swimming race for the shore (and some contestants choosing to be marooned in their underwear), the least strenuous challenge concocted to test tribes Ulong and Koror has been the building of shower–toilet facilities. And the only thing that passes for brainteasers has been the familiar tree mail written in rhyming riddle style.

It appears that’s the game plan until the “Survivor” masterminds get the urge to merge the dwindling number of players.

“We decided to do some really kick-ass, fun-to-watch, fun-to-play aggressive challenges, more so than we have in the past. And that’s what you’re seeing,” Mr. Kirhoffer said. “While they’re in teams, it’s completely fair to throw these kind of challenges at them. But you have not seen the last of the kick-ass physical challenges either, by any means.”

The “Sumo-at-Sea” shoving matches in episode four also demanded boot-camp-meets-“Gladiator” levels of brute strength and force, but Mr. Kirhoffer said his favorite challenge of this season has yet to air (his lips are otherwise sealed, of course).

And the challenges for next season have not even gotten as far as the drawing board. Mr. Kirhoffer is just back from scouting the next “Survivor” location. Except to say, “It’s cool,” his lips are, of course, sealed.

DeCaro Speaks Fraankly

Frank DeCaro, the former movie critic for “The Daily Show” and now host of “The Frank DeCaro Show,” heard 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekdays on Sirius Satellite Radio’s OutQ, will hand out awards Monday, March 28, to “media figures whom other gay organizations have been glad to overlook in the past.”

The FRAANK (Fags Recognizing Artists Actually Needing Kudos) Media Awards were created, Mr. DeCaro said, because “dyed-in-the-salon practicing homosexuals deserve the same pats on the back that heterosexual actors get for playing them on TV and in films.”

“Hell, I may even give myself one,” said the man who never fails to make The Insider giggle and who plans to give a Golden Caftan Lifetime Achievement Award to Squidward Tentacles of “SpongeBob SquarePants” for “heretofore overlooked contributions to flamboyant TV comedy.” Mr. DeCaro also will honor the late stand-up comedian Frank Maya.

Among those nominated for the inaugural FRAANK Media Awards (“mugs designed to hold sour grapes”) are Village Voice columnist Michael Musto, E! Entertainment Television style maven Robert Verdi and the always sweet, never sour Food Network “Top 5” host Bobby Rivers, affectionately known as The Insider’s arm candy.