#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 Critics’ Round Table (Podcast) / Immunity Challenge #1

RTVF330 Critics' Round Table. From left: Max Dawson, Myles McNutt, Mo Ryan, Erik Adams.

RTVF330 Critics’ Round Table. From left: Max Dawson, Myles McNutt, Mo Ryan, Erik Adams.

On Thursday, January 17 my class on Survivor and reality TV hosted television critics Myles McNutt (Onion AV Club), Mo Ryan (Huffington Post), and Erik Adams (Onion AV Club) for the 2013 RTVF330 Critics’ Round Table. Our ninety-minute discussion touched on topics ranging from the special appeal of Pawn Stars to Netflix’s Arrested Development revival to how television showrunners are using social media to connect with (and, in some instances, antagonize) members of their own audiences. Myles, Mo, and Erik were kind enough to allow me to record our discussion, which is presented here for your enjoyment. Please download/stream/share:

Thursday also marked the first immunity challenge, or pop quiz, of the class. Following Tuesday’s hard-fought Survivor 101 reward challenge the victorious Dangrayne tribe opted to send Kalabaw member Charlie Gingold to Exile Island, thereby costing his tribe 5 points in the ongoing fight for immunity from the midterm exam. Did Dangrayne’s strategy pay off, hobbling Kalabaw in the immunity challenge standings? Or did its choice make an instant enemy out of a formidable foe? You’ll have to stay tuned to find out. In the meantime, why not see how you would have fared on this challenge. I’ve embedded the multiple choice quiz below. Tweet your answers to me at @fymaxwell and I’ll let you know how you did.

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.

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