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'Survivor' Creator Keeps Show Fresh

The Early Show: Survivor: 'Thailand's' executive producer Mark Burnett tells show's host Jeff Probst that surprise and emotion are key to the show's success.
CBS/The Early Show
Unpredictability is one of the forces driving the reality television show "Survivor" to success.

No matter how familiar a viewer is, he is always a surprised by something concocted by the show's creator.

Jeff Probst, the host of "Survivor: Thailand," interviewed the show's creator and executive producer Mark Burnett for the The Early Show.

To keep viewers watching, Probst says, Burnett is constantly inventing new ideas.

"We're always thinking about the show. We live the show," said Burnett. "I think the biggest inspiration comes after we cut an episode and it airs. And the next day, the feedback is enormous. That's the kind of feedback you need, and you just know when you've hit it."

Probst believes Burnett's openness to new ideas is valuable as well. The show's crew, writers and anyone else involved in the show can suggest an idea and Burnett will consider it, Probst says.

Burnett has many favorite moments from the show, now in its fifth reincarnation. But most seemed to involve the element of surprise and emotions caught on video. "Australia, oh my God, when they ran out of rice," recalled Burnett with glee. He said "Survivor: Marquesas" had loved ones visit contestants — to the delight of the cast. The original show had a contestant devastated when she heard the news that she was the only cast member not to receive a videotaped message from her family

"It's not about surviving and suffering. It's about human emotion and there's nothing we all understand more than missing a loved one. And it works every time and it's real," said Burnett.

Every new "Survivor" has it's unique characteristics and "Survivor: Thailand" follows that tradition. Burnett described some of the new Survivors to Probst:

Ghandia Johnson: Ghandia to me is an African-American type that we haven't had before. Totally outgoing and wild. I think she's going to be a great character.

Clay Jordan: Clay is awesome with a total Louisiana accent. He owns a diner. Clay brought a golf club as his luxury item.

Stephanie Dill: She's a firefighter from Arkansas. Stephanie is totally buff — almost Amazonian.

Robb Zbacnik: Robb brought a skateboard. What more can I say?

Ken Stafford: Ken is a New York City police officer who was involved in 9/11. He is a big, tough, strong New York City cop. I certainly felt compassion to put him in the show. I think he really works. No matter if he were a garbage collector, he'd be a great character.