“I thought I was going to be criticised for being too much like Jeff!”

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LA-based Jonathan LaPaglia has been watching the reaction to Australian Survivor through social media which has proven to be a fascinating mix of compliments and opinions.

Fans weigh in on everything from Reality twists, Tribal Councils, the phrases he uses and his own peak fitness.

“The social media response for the first episode was hilarious, because it all became about my arms for some reason!” he laughs. “There was so much chatter about it. I thought ‘Oh my God I can’t believe this, the show has become about my veins!’

“But I don’t have any special secret sauce. I go the gym 3 times a week for 45 minutes. I’m very old school, with weights and running.”

During filming in Samoa, LaPaglia found it difficult to keep up his personal regime, with his gym about 45 minutes away from his hotel.

Even a simple jog turned into a drama, with one local warning him against running through the streets.

“He said ‘You should carry a stick with you, there are wild, rabid dogs everywhere,'” he continues.

“But fortunately where I was staying there were a couple of tiny beaches connected, so I was the only idiot running up and down about a dozen times. I got a lot of strange looks from people.”

Despite the fan chatter about his physique, LaPaglia admits to being out-gunned by some of Survivor’s own lean machines, such as Lee and Sam.

“When I look at the footage I think ‘Damn!’ It was Osher Gunsberg who described Lee as a ‘ball of rope!’”

Fans have also been vocal about the hosting lingo LaPaglia uses. ‘Immunity is back in play,’ and ‘I’ll count the votes,’ differ from Jeff Probst’s ‘Immunity is back up for grabs,’ and ‘I’ll go tally the votes.’ Who knew such a subtle difference would trigger a reaction?

“A lot of them are really upset I don’t say ‘tally.'”

But Survivor is a brand with fervent fan ownership.

“The producers and I had long discussions about the hosting role and we agreed we didn’t want a carbon copy to the US. So we looked at ways to change things here and there. We actually wanted to change a lot more but we realised there’s a real economy to the way Jeff hosts the show. So if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” he suggests.

“I thought people would say ‘He’s just copying Jeff!’ But it’s the opposite. People want me to be identical to Jeff. On social media people are telling me ‘Nah mate, you got it all wrong! It’s tally mate! Tally the votes!’

“A lot of them are really upset I don’t say ‘tally.’ But tally and count mean the same thing!

“It’s not easy to make it your own in a format that’s been hosted by the same guy for 16 years. I thought I was going to be criticised for being too much like Jeff, but it’s the opposite!”

But it’s not all bad. Fans praised a move never attempted in the US, that saw 4 contestants change tribes in a shocking Tribal Council twist.

“I thought ‘Oh my God’ they will be turning in their graves when they see the tribe swap. I thought they would hate it, but they loved it! It’s so hard to predict what people will respond to. I was convinced they would hate it because it hadn’t been done on the American one!”

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Adelaide-born LaPaglia has been living in the US since pursuing acting in 1994. Producers send him video links to view episodes shortly before their TEN broadcast, though the viewing window has become increasingly narrow since the show lifted to three episodes a week.

“That was a last minute decision so it’s put extra pressure on post production,” he explains.

“They’re really under the gun. It was a very short post-production period, so they are up against it. They are barely getting it together before airtime.”

The word on the Endemol Shine series has been spreading. Former US Survivor contestants Steve Fishbach and Rob Cesternino have been podcasting on the show.

“I was fascinated that they had gotten hold of it. But Survivor fans are die-hard and they will find it. I’ve heard through my social media feed from people in Brazil, the UK, Canada. I’m not sure how they’re seeing it, but it’s being watched,” says LaPaglia.

“It’s an individual game now”

This Sunday a long-awaited merge takes place between Saanapu and the last-remaining Vavau members. If the show is due any real criticisms it is the hours required of viewers and the imbalance between teams as a result of a schoolyard-pick.

“It resulted in an imbalance in the tribes,” LaPaglia concedes. “It was a confluence of events and there were unexpected circumstances like Rohan going home. No-one expected that.

“So they lost some muscle when they really couldn’t afford to, and it became a domino effect after that. But the game is unpredictable and you never know how it will play out.

“The US had a season where one team was decimated down to 1 player.”

The show takes another turn on Sunday and LaPaglia is bracing for more fan enthusiasm.

“It’s an individual game now. Prior to this point they are relying on each other to win challenges and stay out of Tribal Council. But now it’s all up to you. You live and die by the sword from now on. Everyone, apart from the person who wins individual Immunity, becomes vulnerable,” he says.

“So this is the point in the game where people start to play hard and they turn on each other.

“People start unravelling –so there is some pretty entertaining TV coming up.”

Australian Survivor airs 7:30pm Sunday, Monday and Tuesday on TEN.

22 Comments:

  1. For me having never watched an episode of US Survivor I cant compare. However I think Jonathan has been really good. I like his commentary during the challenges and anyone who can commentate on two people trying to put a puzzle together is a genius.

  2. He’s been doing a pretty good job. I hated that he spilled too much information to Brooke in TC.
    The promos also spoil a great deal of which tribe was going to win, though I imagine this won’t be an issue anymore with the individual game.

  3. Fantastic article and interview David. Anthony is a great host and the format of the show works well. Uncertain if the 3x a night is killing the show but I’m enjoying the night after night experience rather than weekly.

  4. skyintheairwaves

    I did note a minor production error a few weeks ago.
    The camera showed one contestant writing their vote in a distinctive way. When the votes were revealed, this vote was the last one out of the urn. The sequence of votes made this the deciding vote/name, meaning you knew who would be leaving before it was revealed. The US version is always very careful with the order of revealing the votes, especially in terms of votes that are filmed being written….
    But, having said this, I’m loving the Australian version and hope it runs for many seasons…

  5. Jeff Probst will always be a hard act to follow, but Jonathan’s making a good fist of it. Overall, I think the production values of Australian Survivor are better than the U.S one, and the casting has been good too. My criticisms are the obvious ones – too many contestants selected, and Sanapu have been far too dominant in all the challenges for the last 2 weeks. Now the merge is happening on Sunday night, things should get very interesting and cut throat.
    Here’s hoping Channel 10 renews this for 2017

  6. Prior to the challenge

    Jonathon – I’ll give you a minute to talk about it
    Jeff – I’ll give you a minute to strategize

    I know which one I prefer….sorry Jonathon

  7. Must admit I didn’t like Jonathan as host in the beginning – found him very grim-faced and he was coming across as quite belligerent. But of course it would be an incredibly hard job, as host of a high profile show like this, to get the balance exactly right
    But he’s relaxed into the role and “lightened up” considerably along the way.
    Agree with others here that he does tend to take the questioning and probing of the contestants at tribal council too far at times.
    Jonathan’s doing a pretty good job but still would have always preferred a host more in line with Phil Keoghan from The Amazing Race … a bit more light-hearted and humorous in style.

  8. Loving the show. I feel the producers should have redistributed and evened up the tribes at 14, and merged at maybe 10 though. The hand-picked Saanapu tribe should have had a shorter shelf life given its overwhelming advantage.

  9. He has been an awesome host. The only real mistake that I have seen is Ep13 where he revealed Pheobie’s idol play to Brooke but I give him a pass on that one for two reasons.

    1) Tribal Councils don’t normally have people from the loosing tribe watching.

    2) I give him benefit of the doubt. It is possible that one of the players revealed the idol play prior to John asking about it but the edited TV only showed John asking questions about it).

  10. Admittedly, it took me a few episodes to warm to Johnathan but he’s won me over now. They’ve nailed the look and production values and I’m looking forward to each episode as much as the US version.

  11. Probst is such an iconic figure in the role, that any host was going to be damned either way with some of the common phrases.

    I think Jonathan has been very solid. The big criticism I have would be the ‘previous on tribal council’ narration he gave to Brooke re: Phoebe’s idol/Craig which was awful, though, to be fair, that might’ve been as much production insisting Brooke be given that information, and when Vavau were naturally stonewalling his questions, he felt he had to get the info out there like that.

    Btw, Randy from Survivor: Gabon and Heroes vs. Villians is also blogging about the show – overall he is a big fan.

  12. He’s doing a great job. Count sounds more Aussie than Tally anyway. Who says Tally in real life here? My only critisism is that he asks too much during tribal, practically asking the tribe members to give away who they are voteing for. You gotta leave some mystery, But I guess that is attributed to the hour plus running time, it really should just go for one hour.

  13. LaPaglia is doing an amazing job! Getting the host right was perhaps in the top 3 most important things when getting this right imo. And he has excelled in the role.

    • I agree. It was top 3 for me.
      Also the right cast…a mix of those who are fans of the game, and those who are just good competitive players, both socially and physically.
      And the other was keeping it true to the US version that us die hards love so much. Yeah, okay too many competitors and too many days out there, but that is tempered by the 3 nights a week timeslot.

  14. I think Anthony is the best thing about it. Survivor is not meant to be stripped across a number of nights. I didn’t like the swaps as it just feels like Big Brother style padding.

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