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!”
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.