ONE OF REALITY TV’S most compelling franchises, Survivor has achieved enduring popularity, no doubt due to the parallels between island life and, well, reality. It’s a game played out in the elements, and yet the contestants’ challenges, conversations and alliances could just as easily occur among colleagues in a CBD boardroom.
You could argue Survivor’s format trumps even Big Brother’s as a social experiment – survival, after all, is the most basic human instinct. But what makes a survivor?
Through an incredible 40 US seasons, the format has seen contestants divided into teams to battle it out for the title of ‘Sole Survivor’ in an effort to answer this very question. Often grouped according to socioeconomic status, age and even, controversially, by race, the contestants’ trials and tribulations provide an extraordinary insight into the nature of community, human interaction and the hardwired drive for supremacy.
The current sixth season of the rebooted Australian series will again adopt a theme, pitting ‘brawn’ against ‘brain’. It’s perhaps one of the more relatable contests for young Australian men as they weigh up traditional male stereotypes and fresher, more nuanced conceptions of masculinity.
Interestingly, returning host Jonathan LaPaglia seems to think that perhaps neither brains nor brawn alone do a survivor make. Rather, LaPaglia believes the key to modern-day survival lies in remaining socially adept.
“You’re trying to navigate your way through this social world,” reflects LaPaglia from the set of the latest season, in the harsh Queensland outback. “You have to be socially aware and make sure you don’t tread on people’s toes to work your way up.”
In the Survivor universe, LaPaglia would feature very near the top, rivalled only by US host Jeff Probst and the exotic locales. Both hosts command as much admiration as the best players themselves. If a season of Survivor is indeed life in miniature, then LaPaglia, given his half-decade at the helm, must have some first-hand knowledge of the attributes common to winners.
LaPaglia is somewhat the hybrid Survivor contestant: a former career as an emergency doctor ticks the brains box, while our photoshoot provides clear evidence of his formidable brawn. Yet as anyone who has had the good fortune to meet him will attest, it’s the self-identified ‘social’ game that Lapaglia has truly mastered. His colleagues continually sing his praises, former contestants gush, and further removed, fans can’t get enough of him onscreen.
In person, he’s humble, amicable and vulnerable, showing equal empathy for all contestants on the show. (Conversely, Probst is notorious for playing favourites.) It’s no surprise LaPaglia has risen to the top without stepping on any of those toes he’s acutely aware of.
Perhaps Lapaglia has picked up a tip or two on how to play the game of life from watching contestants battle it out in the elements. But that seems unlikely, because the guy exudes authenticity: he’s not a game player, but rather the real deal.
Then again, that’s exactly what a master of the game would have you believe …
Originally Appeared Here