American TV's Dirty Dick knocks spots off Nasty Nick

The critics have called him a manipulative, Machiavellian, egomaniac, his only mission to see off all competition in the voyeuristic game show that has grabbed the attention of the nation. But he is not Nasty Nick. He is Dastardly Dick, the arch villain of
Survivor, the US programme that has trounced not only
Who Wants to be a Millionaire but also the US version of
Big Brother in the ratings.

The critics have called him a manipulative, Machiavellian, egomaniac, his only mission to see off all competition in the voyeuristic game show that has grabbed the attention of the nation. But he is not Nasty Nick. He is Dastardly Dick, the arch villain of Survivor, the US programme that has trounced not only Who Wants to be a Millionaire but also the US version of Big Brother in the ratings.

This Wednesday, while Channel 4 audiences cope with a post-Nick household in Bow in London's East End, a record audience of 40 million Americans is expected to tune in to see whether Richard Hatch (aka Dirty Dick), Susan Hawk, Rudy Boesch or Kelly Wiglesworth will scoop the $1m prize for being the last survivor on a desert island somewhere near Borneo. A rating this high would rank the episode in US TV's Hall of Fame alongside such moments as the shooting of JR and the final Seinfeld.

Survivor, just like Britain's Big Brother, has been nothing short of a television phenomenon in the US, capturing the public's imagination. What's more, it's all the brainchild of a British television producer who sold the idea to American network CBS and is now set to make millions from the deal. Negotiations are now at an advanced stage for a British version to be broadcast on ITV.

Charlie Parsons, one of the co-founders of Planet 24, the company that dreamed up Channel 4's The Big Breakfast, first came up with his idea for Survivor more than a decade ago. In those days he could never get a British network to take it on board, but a Swedish version proved a huge hit, which has now been repeated in America.

"It has just caught the zeitgeist. It has become America's obsession," said Mr Parsons, who has since sold his stake in Planet 24. "Wednesday is the last episode and they are treating it like the Olympics with a two-hour special that 40 million people are expected to tune in and watch."

Survivor, unlike Big Brother, is broadcast once a week. It all began 13 weeks ago with 16 contestants, marooned on Pulau Tiga, a tropical island home to deadly water snakes, pythons, wild pigs and fierce monkeys. Each week, they sit in a form of tribal council where they reject a member of the group.

For the final episode, they are down to four contestants for the $1m (£690,000) prize ( Big Brother's winner will get £70,000), who will vote among themselves to decide the winner. Unlike Big Brother where the television audience votes on which of the household's two nominees to eject, in America viewers do not get a say. That doesn't seem to have harmed Survivor's popularity. While 17 million tune into America's Big Brother, last week's Survivor bagged 28 million viewers.

What delights American television executives most about the current clutch of voyeuristic game shows is their ability to attract more youthful audiences - an advertisers' dream - helping to lower the average age of viewers watching CBS by five years.

And all this despite the fact Survivor's contestants are older than Big Brother's - finalist Rudy Boesch is 72, a grandfather of one, and saw active service in the US Navy, which he joined in 1945.

Exploiting the new game show format has become the Holy Grail for television networks. Britain's Channel 5 is planning to broadcast Jailbreak, in which contestants vie to get out of jail, from the beginning of next month. The rights to the show have been bought up by ABC even before it has been tested in the UK. Meanwhile Survivor is set to hit British screens as soon as a deal is signed.

But not everybody is happy with the success of Big Brother, Survivor et al. Yesterday Channel 4 was accused by a senior Church of England bishop of creating a "human zoo". The Right Reverend James Jones, the Bishop of Liverpool, expressed concern about the effect the programme was having on both audiences and the participants in the Big Brother house, who last week witnessed the expulsion of "Nasty" Nick Bateman for breaking the show's rules.

"What they are doing in the end is colluding with the creation of a human zoo where the human beings are trapped in a confined space under continual observation and occasionally fed treats by Big Brother," he said. "Who knows what the long term consequences are going to be? I wonder how Nick will actually cope with the hostile public reaction and the hostile press he is encountering."

However Channel 4 press officer Matt Baker, who has been with Mr Bateman since he left the house, said that he had been offered full support to cope with his ordeal, including access to a psychologist.

"He is clearly readjusting to life on the outside. We would have to acknowledge that he has been a little surprised, should we say, by the scale of reaction to the programme," Mr Baker said. "Sometimes he is incredibly excited and some moments he is a little bit taken aback, but in the main he is a strong person and he seems to be doing very well."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
filmPoldark production team claims innocence of viewers' ab frenzy
Life and Style
Google marks the 81st anniversary of the Loch Ness Monster's most famous photograph
techIt's the 81st anniversary of THAT iconic photograph
News
Katie Hopkins makes a living out of courting controversy
people
Voices
All the major parties are under pressure from sceptical voters to spell out their tax and spending plans
voices
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Kevin Spacey and artistic director Matthew Warchus at the Old Vic party to honour Spacey
theatreStar's successor at Old Vic theatre admits he's 'allergic to hype'
Life and Style
life + healthVirginia Ironside's dilemma, during Depression Awareness Week
Arts and Entertainment
The median income for professional writers is just £10,432, less than the minimum wage
booksSurvey reveals authors' earnings
News
i100
Life and Style
fashion
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - Sheffield - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer position with a...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Advertising Sales Consultant - OTE £30k

£18000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Gloucestershire's most innovati...

Recruitment Genius: Telephone Advertising Sales Consultant - OTE £40k

£18000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Gloucestershire's most innovati...

Recruitment Genius: Advertising Sales Consultant - OTE £50,000

£24000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Gloucestershire's most innovati...

Day In a Page

Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders