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Twisting the Games Awayby Joshua Ryan -- 08/21/2002
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Ah, the reality show "twist." A part of the game that's been described as "throwing the players off balance" and "keeping the players on their toes." It's become a staple in Survivor, the granddaddy of them all and has even become part of recent shows such as Big Brother 3. The "twist" is supposed to shake things up and to change the outcome of the game; but my question is this: is a "twist" really necessary? Is it even that exciting anymore?
Think about it, a "twist" has become a regular feature of almost all reality shows. The first major "twist" was introduced during Survivor: Africa, when it was feared the game was losing steam. The producers felt the viewers were tiring of a one-alliance based game controlling the outcome of all the votes. Thus, they decided they would switch members of the two tribes and hope the old tribal lines would diminish. Ironically though in the end, the switch might only have helped Boran boot strong players (Lindsay, Silas) thus allowing them to take firm control. In the long run it didn't help the excitement of the show and that season was arguably one of the most mundane of them yet.
In the recent Survivor: Marquesas, the twist did add a little more to the excitement to the game. Another random switch had one tribe/alliance still dominating the game, but when the two tribes merged, the dominating alliance's cockiness showed through and the other members fought back to eventually take control of the game. An additional twist was that immunity could also have been given away to someone else for bartering purposes.
In Big Brother 3, we got not one but two "twists." The first one introduced the Power of Veto, allowing the winner of it to take someone off the chopping block of nomination. The second twist had one of the first four evicted houseguests returning and going back into the house to play the game.
My point (or question) is this: if the "twist" was first introduced to reality TV shows to bring shock and surprise to the audience/players, is it still necessary today? Reality shows have to constantly change, and if the "twist" is now considered to be a normal part of them then does that mean that its mundane now and not fun? Is it really a surprise if everybody knows there will be a surprise?
Was it even necessary to give a twist to Survivor and Big Brother? I'm sure a lot of people would had loved to have seen the Brat Packers of Survivor: Africa go up against the Boran Boys Club - and wanted to see if the remaining elders would have made the first serious alliance switch. And who wouldn't have loved to have seen Neleh, Pappy, and Kathy go up against John's alliance on their own without annoying the Sean tagging along with them on Survivor: Marquesas? In Big Brother 3, the power of veto does make it really interesting, but so far it has only been used once - the very first time it was available. And was it really fair to let an evicted houseguest come back into the game to battle against someone who has been locked up in the house battling mind games far longer than them? I'm sure all of these twists and switches were used to draw ratings (isn't everything, though?) or to create excitement, but I've seen the ratings and they haven't skyrocketed during the "twist" shows.
Maybe its one of those things that's more exciting on paper than it is on the show. Or maybe it's up to the players whether or not the "twist" proves effective, but more times than not, it hasn't.
I would love to get readers comments on the idea. email@example.comE-mail me and I'll select the ones that are the most opinionated and write up another article that will (hopefully) answer my question. Until next time.
Joshua Ryan is a student and reality TV junkie.
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