The accountants have spoken: Budget cuts hit CBS's 'Survivor'

The television Powers That Be have made true castaways of Jeff Probst and company. To save money, CBS will produce back-to-back seasons of Survivor in the same locale, forcing the production crew to spend four months on location instead of the usual six weeks.

Usually, the show shoots once around June and once in the fall. But rather than move the 80 containers of cargo it takes to produce each elaborate season of the show, says, Survivor producer Mark Burnett elected to maroon the production in the South Pacific for double duty, with only a short break between competitions.

"This season we're doing back-to-back seasons is because of budget cuts, and that's just the truth," Probst told Reality Blurred. "We are having to do two seasons to save money, because every television show is undergoing some sort of a cut."

Reality Blurred reports that Aggie Grey's resort on Samoa, the site of the upcoming season, has abruptly bumped tourist reservations from now through October 2 to accommodate the crew, and host and co-producer Jeff Probst told the New York Post that he won't be able to start working on other projects until the fall.

Survivor has economized in the past -- its Pearl Islands, Panama, and All-Stars season used the same area in Panama -- but this is the first time that budget cuts have forced the production to relocate for such an extended period so far from home. Jeff Probst is only signed through the 20th season, which will be the second of the back-to-back games. This arrangement threatens to burn him out, and should he bail after this grueling double-barreled shoot, the show could be looking at a new host and a potential tumble from its perennial top-rated ranking.

It's not the only reality show that is nibbling away at its production values. CBS's summer spectacle Big Brother, which has awarded the same feeble $500,000 jackpot since 2000, has axed its web-only recap show, "House Calls," for want of a sponsor, despite reports by BB8 winner "Evel" Dick Donato that it was capturing a third of the viewers who tune in for the televised version.

In the United Kingdom, Big Brother is the hottest thing going, and it's a veritable factory for pop culture hangers-on such as the recently departed Jade Goody. But this year, for the first time, there are no live camera feeds that allow fans can see what's going on in the house, and to fall in love or hate with the players, from their desktops. So tweeted that show's host, Davina McCall: "Live feed gone coz people not watching." Correction: not enough people to satisfy the corporate masters.

The elimination defies the whole point of Big Brother, I think, and if it were to happen in America, where the live feeds are the antidote to CBS's heavy-handed and often somewhat deceptive editing, it would probably kill the show.

In lean times, corporations have a hard time retaining the knowledge that sometimes, that expensive nugget of added value is what buoys the brand.

Cheap production values are already a benchmark of most of the shows airing on VH1 and Bravo, where a Mylar curtain would be considered a splashy set. But as penny-pinching drags down the prime-time reality shows, it threatens to sink the premiere franchises themselves.
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