#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


Podcast: talking Survivor, reality TV, and #RTVF330 on The Dom & Colin Podcast

Late last week I sat down with Dom Harvey and Colin Stone of The Dom & Colin Podcast for a long (135 minutes!) discussion about Survivor, reality TV, and social media. The resulting podcast is a pretty good representation of the sort of topics I touch on in my Northwestern University reality TV class, #RTVF330. You can listen to the interview on Dom’s and Colin’s website or download it for free from iTunes. Note: this will be on the quiz.


Survivor Math (RTVF330 Hidden Immunity Idol)

The Rooster breaks down Survivor Math for some of his prized pupils.

The Rooster breaks down Survivor Math for some of his prized pupils.

Note: this post contains material that originally appeared on the RTVF330 Tumblr. Now that the puzzle has been solved and this week’s hidden immunity idol is out of play I’m making it public.

Grab your calculators, because it’s time for the Survivor Math test. RTVF330 All Star Jonathan Forman (@jofo322) has put together a word problem that will test your math and research skills. Solve all three puzzles and then enter the answers in the marked spaces below. Combined these ten digits will lead you to the location of our hidden immunity idol and a perfect score on this week’s quiz.

Part I

  • Start with number of different locations where seasons of Survivor have been filmed: ___
  • Multiply by the number of different players who have returned to the game from Redemption Island: ___
  • Add the number of the season that was the first to feature a cast comprised of both new and returning players: ___
  • Multiply by the number of the season that saw one tribe decimated to the point where only one tribe member remained going into the merge: ___

Answer A _ _ _

Part II

  • Start with the total number of days that members of the Mariano family have played Survivor: ___
  • Add the number of days played in the only Survivor season that lasted more than 39 days: ___
  • Add the number of players who have played Survivor three or more times: ___
  • Subtract the number of the first season in which the castaways picked their own tribes: ___
  • Multiply by the number of seasons in which three players received votes to win at the Final Tribal Council: ___
  • Add the number of National League Most Valuable Player Awards won bySurvivor players: ___

Answer B: _ _ _

Part III

  • Start with the placement of the Survivor: Caramoan (Fans versus Favorites 2) returning player who placed the worst in his/her original season: ___
  • Multiply by the number of former pageant queens in the cast of Survivor: Philippines: ___
  • Add the number of distinct seasons in which Survivor: Caramoan’s returning castaways originally played: ___
  • Add the number of seasons of Survivor which have started with an odd number of players: ___
  • Multiply by the number of the season in which two players were sent home on the second day after not being selected in a schoolyard pick: ___
  • Add the number of the season in which tribes were divided by gender for the first time: ___
  • Multiply by the total number of letters in the first and last name of the castaway who first destroyed and later slept in the commode in Survivor: Exile Island: ___
  • Add the number of times James Clement won the $100,000 fan favorite award: ___
  • Add the number of votes cast to eliminate Yau-Man Chan from Survivor: Fiji: ___

Answer C: _ _ _ _


  Answer A    Answer B     Answer C 

         _ _ _   –    _ _ _       –    _ _ _ _

Postscript: Only about six of the sixty students in my class successfully solved this puzzle, and even after that they failed to locate the hidden immunity idol. You’ll know when you’ve solved it – drop me a line at @fymaxwell when you’ve figured it out.

RTVF330 Tribe Spirit Day Photo Gallery


Previously on RTVF330…

This week the four tribes of RTVF330, my Northwestern University class on Survivor and reality TV, squared off in a tribe spirit reward challenge. Our sixty student-castaways attended class bearing tribe flags and decked out in the colors of their namesakes, Tandang, Kalabaw, Matsing, and Dangrayne. Each tribe was interviewed about its teamwork strategies, and specifically about how its members are using social media to pool resources and prepare themselves for our quizzes and midterm exam. Finally, the students were tested on their knowledge of Survivor history with a series of questions about how their tribes fared in the show’s recently-concluded twenty-fifth season.

Judging the challenge was someone who knows first hand the importance of tribal harmony: R.C. Saint-Amour of Survivor: Philippines. R.C. skyped in to evaluate the tribes’ efforts and stuck around afterwards to answer a few questions about her time on Survivor. Later on that night R.C. announced her decision via Twitter, crowning Kalabaw the winner. Kalabaw’s reward is a powerful (and controversial) prize: the Medallion of Power. Kalabaw will receive a five point advantage on this week’s immunity challenge. However, in keeping with the spirit of the original Medallion of Power twist, after using it they will be required to grant one of their three opposing tribes an advantage in the next reward challenge. Will Kalabaw use the Medallion of Power to repair the rift between itself and the villainous Dangrayne tribe? Will they use it to form a new cross-tribe alliance with Tandang or Matsing? Or, will they grant the advantage to the tribe they feel they stand the best chance of defeating in the next reward challenge? You’ll have to tune in next time to find out….

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.

Read more of this post

“Defining Mobile Television”

I just received word that my article “Defining Mobile Television: The Social Construction and Deconstruction of New and Old Media” has been published by the journal Popular Communication. The article is a companion to another piece that I shared as a work in progress on the blog, “The 800-Pound Gorillas in the Room: The Mobile Phone and the Future of Television,” which is set to appear in the next few months in Kelly Gates’ edited collection Media Studies Futures. Whereas “The 800-Pound Gorillas” was concerned mainly with the ongoing battles between the telephone and broadcasting industries over the future of television, “Defining Mobile Television” uses the case of mobile television to think about technological change (and convergence) in more theoretical terms. In dialogue with film historian Rick Altman and with scholarship on the social construction of technological systems, I propose the concepts of “social deconstruction” and “disintegration mechanisms” as means of accounting for the mid- and late-life “identity crises” that the mobile phone and television have experienced over the last two decades. I’ve attached a brief excerpt below. For the full article check out Popular Communication vol. 10 no. 4 (2012).


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