#RTVF330: The Final Tribal Council

This past Thursday I taught the final class of #RTVF330, my Northwestern University class on Survivor and reality TV. Thursday also happened to be my last class as a college professor for the foreseeable future, as in the coming weeks I’ll be joining the staff of the Los Angeles office of Frank N. Magid Associates, a research and consulting firm that services media and entertainment industry clients. I’ll have more to say about my transition from academia to industry in a future post. For the time being, I’d like to share a few moments and memories from my class’s final tribal council. Read more of this post


Fans Versus Favorites…Versus Favorites (#RTVF330 Survivor Trivia Challenge)

When the student-castaways of #RTVF330 aren’t busy learning about television’s Financial Interest and Syndication Rules, the effects of changing audience metrics on programming and advertising, and FOX reality czar Mike Darnell’s unique fashion sense they spend their time studying Survivor. (Technically they spend most of their free time watching Catfish, but I like to imagine that when they’re not watching Nev and Max explain the dangers of cybersex to midwesterners they’re committing to memory such important facts as the depth of Jeff Probst’s dimples (11 mm) or which Survivor winner took the most episodes before going to tribal council in back-to-back episodes.) On Tuesday, February 5, the castaways had a chance to show off their knowledge of Survivor history in #RTVF330’s second-annual Survivor Trivia Reward Challenge. Read more of this post

RTVF330 Reward Challenge #1: Survivor 101

As I explained in my last post, I’m currently teaching a course on reality TV that is modelled in part on the series Survivor. Yesterday, the class’s four tribes (Matsing, Kalabaw, Tandang, and Dangrayne) squared off in the first “reward chalenge” of the quarter. In the context of the course “reward challenges” are brief, ungraded in-class exercises that test the students’ teamwork skills or knowledge of reality TV trivia. This particular challenge, “Survivor 101,” tested students on Survivor-related terms and facts included in the course packet distributed on the first day of classes. After a close competition the Dangrayne tribe emerged victorious, claiming the “Exile Island Reward.” On the date of our next pop quiz Dangrayne will send one member of a competing tribe to Exile Island. The banished student will automatically receive a perfect score on the quiz. However, that score will not be counted toward his or her tribe’s total. Instead, the total will tabulated as if the student skipped class and received zero points. This is an opportunity for Dangrayne to hamstring the tribe that they consider their toughest competition in the contest over immunity from the midterm exam. Expect fierce tribe rivalries to erupt in the weeks to come…

At the request of the people who are “auditing” the class via Twitter, I’m including the “Survivor 101″ challenge below. If the questions seem exceedingly easy, that’s not a mistake. A significant number of my students were unfamiliar with Survivor prior to enrolling in the course, and the intention of this exercise was to bring them up to speed on some of the basic terminology that they will encounter over the next ten weeks. I’ll also reiterate that this quiz was a part of team-building exercise, and not a graded assignment. Contrary to popular belief, RTVF330 is about more than just Survivor trivia and Twitter. Sure, the course doesn’t educate students about “the 8th planet of the sun…The 4th number in pi… [or] Abraham Lincoln’s Secretary of State.” Instead, we examine the political economy of global media in the twenty-first century and the socio-cultural factors that have contributed to the transformation of the American television industry over the last two decades. Or, as Northwestern undergrad and Dangrayne tribe member Kevin O’Toole so aptly put it, ”the goal of #rtvf330 is to use that historical context to analyze why [Rupert Boneham] stealing the shoes is such a lasting TV memory.”

The Tribe Has Spoken: Surviving TV’s New Reality Season 2


Last week marked the return of “The Tribe Has Spoken: Surviving TV’s New Reality,” my class on Survivor and reality TV at Northwestern University. The class has evolved quite a bit since I first described it on the blog last January. Many of these changes are responses to the feedback I received while teaching it for the first time last year. When word got out in January 2012 that I was teaching a class on Survivor I received messages from fans of the show, journalists, and former contestants. While a few of my correspondents were skeptical about the idea of a college class on a reality TV show, many offered their encouragement, and a few volunteered to participate in one form or another. Over the course of the quarter the class was visited by critics and bloggers, producers and writers, and a number of former Survivor castaways. For our Survivor Summit event on February 9, 2012 we were joined by Stephen Fishbach and Erinn Lobdell (both of Survivor: Tocantins), John Cochran (Survivor: South Pacific; Survivor Caramoan), Mookie Lee (Survivor: Fiji), Jenny Guzon-Bae (Survivor: Cook Islands), and Kelly Goldsmith (Survivor: Africa). In addition, we hosted Skype q&a sessions with Survivor’s first winner, Richard Hatch, and two-time castaway (and perennial fan favorite) Yau-Man Chan.

Read more of this post

%d bloggers like this: