August 23, 2000
First Survivor finale airs.
On this day in 2000, Richard Hatch, a 39-year-old corporate trainer from Rhode Island, wins the season-one finale of the reality television show Survivor and takes home the promised $1 million prize. In a four-to-three vote by his fellow contestants, Hatch, who was known for walking around naked on the island in Borneo where the show was shot, was named Sole Survivor over the river raft guide Kelly Wiglesworth. Survivor, whose slogan is “Outwit, Outplay, Outlast,” was a huge ratings success and spawned numerous imitators in the reality-competition genre.
Produced by Mark Burnett (The Apprentice, Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?), Survivor premiered on May 31, 2000, on CBS. The show centers around a group of sixteen strangers who are stranded for 39 days in a remote location where they must fend for food, water and shelter and compete in various challenges to win rewards and immunity from being voted out of the competition by their fellow contestants. The voting takes place at the so-called “Tribal Council” ceremony and after a contestant is voted off, the show’s host Jeff Probst informs that person that “the tribe has spoken” and asks the evictee to extinguish his or her torch.
As of May 2008, Survivor had been on the air for 16 seasons. The show has been filmed in a variety of locations around the world, including the Australian Outback (season two), the Amazon (season six) and Fiji (season 14). Season 13, which was set in the Cook Islands, stirred up controversy when the contestants were initially divided by race into four competing tribes: African-American, Asian, Caucasian and Hispanic.
In 2006, season-one winner Richard Hatch was found guilty of tax evasion for failing to report his Survivor prize money to the IRS. He was sentenced to more than four years in prison. Other former Survivor contestants have gone on to reap more success from their appearance on the reality show: Season one’s Colleen Haskell landed a co-starring role in the forgettable 2001 comedy The Animal, while season two’s Elisabeth Hasselbeck (nee Filarski) went on to become a co-host of the daytime TV talk show The View.