Jonathan LaPaglia: There's no class on how to host Survivor
MANIPULATION is the name of the game as Survivor returns to our screens.
The long-running reality format makes a second stab at an Aussie audience, with Channel 10 staging its first ever Survivor series in Samoa.
The series maroons two dozen contestants, selected from more than 15,000 applicants, on a remote Samoan beach in total isolation.
As well as battling the elements as they strive to provide themselves with food, water and shelter, the contestants must "outwit, outplay and outlast" one another for a shot at a hefty $500,000 cash prize.
The contestants compete in challenges for rewards and immunity from eliminations, which take place in a 'tribal council' meeting.
Host Jonathan LaPaglia promises the Australian version isn't "here to reinvent the wheel, we just want to make it roll better".
"Yes, there are some contestants who are super fans of the show but the producers have also cast people who know little or nothing about the show and that's going to be very interesting," he tells APN's The Guide.
The contestants range from a high school teacher to a criminal lawyer, a firefighter, a law student, an air traffic controller and a financial analyst.
"As a viewer when you initially watch it you might go 'oh I see they've just cast certain stereotypes' but the producers have been pretty clever," LaPaglia says.
"They've found people who may fit those archetypes but they also have some really interesting back stories that hopefully will be revealed over the season and will make for someone interesting conflict and drama."
LaPaglia studied the US show, now in its 33rd season, to prepare for what he calls an untraditional hosting gig.
"It's a weird beast unto itself," he says.
"It's part sports commentator, part coach, part team psychologist and you're also the referee. I wish there was a class on it but there isn't. It's a weird one."
Reflecting on the show's appeal, LaPaglia says the alliances, backstabbing and manipulation are all dynamics that viewers can relate to on some level.
"At the core it appeals to human nature," he says.
"As a society we don't just want to belong to a group, we need to belong to a group to survive. But at the same time, as an individual you have to make decisions to help yourself and those decisions can often go against the good of the group, whether that's your family or workplace or whatever.
"The contestants are constantly faced with these ethical dilemmas and people can really relate to that. So when they're watching they're constantly asking themselves 'what would I do in that situation?'"
Australian Survivor premieres on Sunday at 7.30pm on Channel 10.