As usual, CBS' new "Survivor" stranded a diverse band of castaways from all over the United States in the middle of nowhere - this time Kenya's dry, grassy Shaba National Reserve. Then they were divided into two competing tribes: Boran and Samburu.
Trudging with supplies to their campsites, the castaways soon were complaining. And butting heads.
"Excuse me! Africa!" barked Samburu member Frank Garrison, a telephone technician from Odessa, N.Y. "We're not down at the mall with our lattes."
"Frank, like, he was trying to hurry us along," said Kim Powers, a free-lance marketer from Conshohocken, Pa., "and that's not my style. I like to talk to people."
Their first "immunity" challenge: a race to light three fire towers. Samburu won, which meant the eight members of the opposing Boran tribe had to appear before host Jeff Probst at tribal council.
Voted out: Diane Ogden, a mail carrier from Lincoln, Neb. She and Clarence Black, a high school basketball coach, had sneaked a can of beans, much to the anger of their fellow tribe members. In the resulting dispute over who was to blame, she lost.
On such matters does this game revolve. In 13 weeks, the final contestant will win $1 million.
"Survivor: Africa," which was taped last summer (and whose winner CBS is jealously guarding), follows two wildly popular editions. The first "Survivor" was a national craze in summer 2000, and "Survivor: The Australian Outback" was the highest-rated series last season.
But joining a glut of other so-called "reality" fare this fall, "Survivor: Africa" may not enjoy such a warm reception, especially with viewers still distracted by the Sept. 11 attacks.
Scant buzz ushered in this edition, and a "Survivor" preview special last week drew just one-third the audience of its NBC rival "Friends."
Far graver issues of survival dislodged "Survivor" from Thursday's scheduled 8 p.m. start time in the Eastern and Central zones. Deferring to President Bush's televised news conference, the premiere didn't begin until about 8:45 p.m.
What impact that delay had on the "Survivor" audience remains to be seen, but there's no doubt "Survivor: The Australian Outback" kicked off with more fanfare last January: Its lead-in was the Super Bowl.
By Frazier Moore © MMI The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed