How Real Is Survivor?

Since premiering in 2000, the premise of the show "Survivor" has been to put regular people in difficult situations in tropical locations and see how they, well, survive — but how real is it actually? Luckily for die-hard fans, the answer is that the show is mostly real. Still, there are some things such as re-shooting scenes, casting certain people, and incorporating body doubles that make the show a little less authentic than it may appear to be on the surface.

In 2008 casting director Lynne Spillman revealed to Today that "Survivor" does cast models and actors to be on the show as they are generally considered to be better candidates for "Survivor" contestants. While Spillman didn't state why the tens of thousands of regular people who apply for the show aren't "Survivor" material, one can speculate that models and actors may be preferred because they are used to being in front of a camera, not to mention that attractive people will draw viewers in. In the same vein, the show sometimes uses body doubles for overhead shots and events like swimming races where the average person might struggle (via TV Over Mind). Still, once the cast is chosen, the challenges they undertake are real.

Some things are re-filmed to make for better television

When it comes to getting the perfect shot, even reality shows like "Survivor" aren't immune to doing multiple takes. Speaking to Insider, former "Survivor: Island of the Idols" contestant Karishma Patel said they had to film the walk to the Tribal Council more than once. "They do that shot about three times. We have to rewind and do it again from different angles," Patel shared. Nevertheless, as this is purely a matter of getting the right shot, "Survivor" can still be regarded as being "real" in this regard.

Moreover, while some may consider using body doubles to be a fake aspect of the show, the topic has been put to rest before. Speaking about it in more detail at a Museum of Television & Radio panel in 2001, "Survivor" executive producer Mark Burnett admitted that the show did use body doubles, but stressed that this was purely for aesthetic purposes and did not influence the outcome of any of the challenges or the overall show (per the Los Angeles Times).

The show is mostly grounded in reality

In addition to the above, there is also a little bit of television magic during the results segment of the show (via The Independent). Before the cameras start rolling, those behind the scenes actually decide which order to read the results out in so even more drama is drummed up during the segment. 

Overall, compared to some totally fake shows, "Survivor" is as real as it gets in terms of challenges, contestants, and results. Though it may recruit contestants and shoot things a few times, according to a statement from CBS (via the LA Times), those practices are just "window dressing" and they don't "in any way influence the outcome of any challenge, tribal council, or change the view of reality as it occurred. The series is exactly what it appears to be–16 people battling the elements and each other."

Much like any reality show, there are probably some challenges and scenes designed to provoke reactions from the contestants to create a more compelling program. However, as Mark Burnett reiterated in the above-mentioned Museum & Television panel, "Survivor" would not reenact scenes that occurred between contestants, making the interactions between them fully authentic.