Survival of the fittest

Survivor producer Mark Burnett has some challenges of his own to face - a court case filed by former Survivor contestant Stacey Stillman, and competition from NBC reality show Fear Factor.
February 7, 2001

No one ever said that being a Survivor was easy. However, Stacey Stillman, a contestant from CBS’ hugely popular Survivor series claims she never had a fighting chance. According to a report from USA Today, Stillman recently filed a 14-page lawsuit in San Francisco Superior Court alleging that Survivor producer Mark Burnett ‘improperly abused his relationships with the contestants’ thereby rigging the contest.’

Stillman was the third contestant voted off the Borneo island of Pulau Tiga in the original Survivor series. She accuses Burnett of persuading two of her tribe mates (Sean Kenniff and Dirk Been) to vote against her instead of 72-year-old retired Navy SEAL Rudy Boesch. Burnett’s motive, she claims, was fear of criticism if the three oldest contestants were all voted off first (63-year-old Sonja Christopher and 64-year-old B.B. Anderson preceded Stillman).

Kenniff has already publicly refuted Stillman’s claim, while Been has been mysteriously non-committal. Broadcaster CBS, which is accused in Stillman’s lawsuite of violating federal law against gameshow rigging, has issued the following statement: ‘We heard about Stacey Stillman’s allegations several months ago. They had no merit then; they have no merit now that she has packaged them into a frivolous and groundless lawsuit. Survivor has received more press and public scrutiny than any show in recent television history, and its creative integrity has remained intact throughout. We are confident that the courts, as well as Survivor viewers, will see the case as utterly without foundation.’ Burnett could not be reached for comment at press time.

Meanwhile, NBC is busy preparing a challenger to Survivor‘s supremacy. Fear Factor is described by the peacock network as an ‘alternative series in which real people compete against themselves, extreme challenges – and each other – in the hope of taking home a cash prize of up to US$50,000 at the end of each primetime hour.’ Some of the proposed stunts for contestants include lying in a bed of snakes, and walking across a beam only six-and-a-half inches wide suspended more than 100 feet in the air. Matt Kunitz and Douglas Ross of Endemol Entertainment USA are producing the series, which is slated for a debut later in the 2001 season.

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