Jonathan La Paglia loves to talk Australian Survivor with those who know the show comprehensively.
Selling the show to the press is part of his contract, but he’ll talk gameplay, blindsides, alliances and production secrets if the interviewer demonstrates more than a passing interest in the show. He’s grateful the show resonates so strongly in recent TV Tonight awards and intrigued the site had a small hand in the casting of 2019 winner, Pia Miranda.
“Wow. She won, she owes you more than dinner! I would send her a bill!” he laughs.
La Paglia’s year now comprises not one, but two, full seasons of the hit reality show. This week 10 launches Australian Survivor: All Stars with returning contestants back for a shot at $500,000 and bragging rights.
“You’ve got 24 returning contestants, who are all hungry for something: redemption, revenge or the ultimate prize of being crowned the sole Survivor,” he says.
“But they’ve played the game before, so they know what it’s like to be out on the island. They know how cutthroat it can be and they’re all super-competitive. That’s a lot of testosterone. The game kicks in the minute they land on the beach.
“So that culminates in a lot of blindsides. It’s pretty ruthless.”
“It takes time and money for the production team to set that up”
La Paglia filmed the series between August & October on Fiji, where the last two seasons have taken place and 8 consecutive seasons of the US original. It is one of a number of shows to attract a production incentive from the Fijian government.
“We don’t shoot on the same island as the US,” La Paglia observes.
“Often the locations we go to don’t really have a good infrastructure. So it takes time and money for the production team to set that up. So once you set it up, it kind of makes sense to go back to the well, at least a few times.
“But I also think the game has changed somewhat,” he suggests.
“When the US show first started, the location was very much part of the narrative. But that’s kind of fallen into the background. Now we’re on an island with a jungle background, and the theme becomes more important. All-Stars, Champions, Contenders or whatever the theme is.”
Only half of the cast have been formally announced by 10. They include Brooke, Flick, Nick and Phoebe from 10’s Season 1; AK, Henry, Jericho, Locky and Tarzan from Season 2; Lydia, Mat and Shane from Season 3 and David and Harry from 2019’s Australian Survivor: Champions v Contenders.
“Personally, I wanted it to be called ‘Second Chance.'”
Some Survivor addicts have noted Australian Survivor actually began on Nine in 2001, while Seven screen Celebrity Survivor in 2006. At 4 seasons on 10 is it possibly too soon for an All Stars edition?
“Our cast is bigger per season than the US cast. It’s a pool of almost 100 people,” La Paglia replies.
“I get the argument it’s too soon for an All-Stars season. Personally, I wanted it to be called ‘Second Chance.’
“But All-Stars looks better on a banner across a bus. So I understand that’s 10 wanted to do that.
“In the end it’s just a label to create a narrative for the season. The most important thing is we’ve got 24 very hungry returning contestants in an entertaining show.”
“We have about a quarter of the budget of the US”
The Endemol Shine production has won praise for its high production values and storytelling, with La Paglia keen to highlight the achievements on a more modest budget.
“It’s kind of remarkable really, because we have about a quarter of the budget of the US and maybe a third of the people working on it. So it really is a testament to the skill and dedication of the crew that they can put together a show that competes with the US.
“A number of key people on our crew worked on the US show for 10 years and Endemol was smart enough to poach them. So that definitely helps.”
They include executive producers, Art Department & Challenge Department staff.
La Paglia, who is US based, heads back to Fiji at the end of April to film 2020’s next season for 10. With such commitment, when will he be back on our screens in an acting capacity?
“I’ve been doing some stuff in the US but Survivor has taken up a lot of my time,” he laughs.
“But yes, more Drama, I’d love to … from your lips to God’s ears. Let’s hope.”
Australian Survivor screens 7:30pm Monday – Wednesday on 10.