'Survivor' winner departs with £1m - leaving a £10m wash-out for ITV

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The Independent Online

The £1M prize contest which was supposed to be a blockbuster but became this summer's surprise television washout ended last night. Several million viewers tuned in to find whether a petite blonde policewoman with a tendency to flirt had beaten her bland, dark-haired rival to the grand prize. She had.

But if these brief details leave you clueless, then you are among the many millions predicted to watch ITV's "blockbuster" desert island game show, Survivor, who didn't. The series produced by Nigel Lythgoe, the man behind the hit show Popstars, was to be the saviour of ITV's summer schedules, and he predicted audiences as high as 12 million.

But as last night's programme revealed that Charlotte Hobrough, (the 24-year- old blonde) had beaten Jackie Carey (her 31-year-old rival) by seven votes to nil, ITV chiefs were left to review figures which could scarcely be said to justify the £10m production.

At worst, the audience for the studio part of the show fell to 3.4 million, with ITV gaining only around 20 per cent of the audience share, a disaster in peak programming hours. It contrasted unfavourably with the second series of Big Brother, whose less glossy drama was another Channel 4 success.

At best, the publicity, hyped by phenomenal ratings for the US version where viewers hosted parties for the final vote, attracted 6.9 million at the competition peak this week.

The combination of beautiful scenery from the island in Borneo, nasty and demanding challenges and outrageous bitchery among the 16 contestants failed to produce the necessary sparks. Mr Lythgoe said the programme being shown at different times had not helped. "It was terribly confusing for the viewer." He alone knew the name of the winner before it was unveiled last night, or so it was claimed.

The decision was made by a jury of defeated contestants on the island two months ago and the papers were flown home to Britain in a sealed box and kept under close guard until last night's denouement on a set at the Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire.

But those newspapers which had kept a beady eye on the fortunes of Richard, Andy, Mick and co thought they knew who had the £1m. Ms Hobrough, they reported, had returned to Wales, taken leave from the police force and bought a £200,000 luxury flat and paid for her sister's wedding.

The final choice was between Ms Carey, who retired from the arduous task of building the camp because she felt sick, and Ms Hobrough, whose principal characteristics were flirting and moaning. The physical and mental challenges weren't in it. What happened to whoever dares, wins?