While on location in Fiji filming “Survivor” season 42, host Jeff Probst recorded a couple of videos recalling the show’s first season for its 21st anniversary — “Survivor: Borneo” premiered May 31, 2000. In the videos, he revealed some behind-the-scenes secrets from the show that remind him just where the megahit reality show got its start.
In Season 1, Camera Operators Were Running Challenges
In a video posted to CBS’ Twitter account, Probst talked about the “Dream Team,” which, if you don’t know, is the group of people that do practice runs on the challenges.
“The Dream Team are in many ways the heart and soul of any season because there’s this new group of young, very cool, really earnest, hardworking young people who come out and practice our challenges and then they go into other departments,” revealed Probst. “A lot of times they end up with jobs on the show. We have a lot of former Dream Teamers who are in very big positions on our show.”
But in season one, there was no Dream Team. So anybody who was willing could be a challenge guinea pig.
“In the first season, we didn’t have any money for a Dream Team, so [producer] John Kirhoffer in charge of challenges would have to get anybody he could,” said Probst. “So it wouldn’t be uncommon to be at a rehearsal and have a camera operator look through their lens for a little bit and say, ‘OK, I think I’ll know what I’ll shoot on the day, let me go in and now help run the challenge.’ Everybody was running challenges, no matter who you were — we just needed bodies.
Probst added that it might sound “silly” all these years later, but he really does believe that that is what “helped make season one special.”
“We were all working every single day — 14, 16, 18 hours, whatever it took to get the show done,” said Probst.
In Season One, They Charged Video Monitors With Car Batteries
In another demonstration of “Survivor’s” humble beginnings, Probst revealed that in season one, they jury-rigged a “video village” together and had to charge the monitors with car batteries.
“When we would shoot Tribal Council, … I was sometimes a couple hundred yards away from where all the produces were and they needed to hear what was going on, so we set up some monitors in a little booth. They call it ‘video village’ in the movies, but it’s just a bunch of monitors that you can see all the cameras and what they’re shooting and you can hear what’s being said,” Probst explained.
“But we didn’t have a lot of gear. We didn’t have a generator. So we powered these monitors with car batteries,” Probst continued, laughing. “And I remember [then-equipment engineer] Brett Wilmot would wheel them over in a wheelbarrow and then he would power the monitors with car batteries and then take them back and charge the car batteries again.”
Probst said that is “one of those fond memories” for him because it reminds him “how small ‘Survivor’ was in the beginning.”
“It really was a group of people trying to make a cool show any way they could,” said the host.
“Survivor” returns for its 41st season in September 2021 — most likely the 15, 22, or 29.