TV castaways face heat, hunger and treachery

Survivor, the programme ITV hopes will become the UK's biggest reality game show, was given its first preview yesterday. For 40 days and 40 nights, 16 contestants hoping to win £1m will have to survive on a desert island, living off the land and by their wits, all in the name of light entertainment.

Survivor, the programme ITV hopes will become the UK's biggest reality game show, was given its first preview yesterday. For 40 days and 40 nights, 16 contestants hoping to win £1m will have to survive on a desert island, living off the land and by their wits, all in the name of light entertainment.

Their ordeal will begin 150ft off Pulau Tiga island, Borneo, when they are dumped on rafts in the South China Sea in two tribes of eight, and told to make their way to safety.

To the delight of millions of armchair adventurers, the contestants, afflicted by dysentery and horseflies, will be forced to catch, cook and eat rats, maggots, snakes and anything else they can forage. Even a drink of water is a two-hour trek through the jungle. But perhaps the biggest challenge will be in surviving each other as they connive and scheme to have team-mates voted off the show.

Survivor broadcasts start next Monday evening. Then it will be on four nights a week in 90-minute episodes, pitching it head-to-head on some evenings with Channel 4's second series of Big Brother.

The tribes compete in various challenges. The losing side must then visit the tribal council, where they have to vote off a member of their team.

Filming is finished and the winner has been voted on, but only one person knows who it is.

Nigel Lythgoe, the man also responsible for the Pop Star series, said: "The sleep deprivation, humidity and lack of food are real killers. You'll see them disintegrate before your eyes."

But he does draw the line. "It's a game show and we don't want them to die," he added.

Sceptics are suspicious of at least one scene, where a cigarette lighter miraculously washes up on the shore just as the teams are failing to light a fire to cook on.

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