How a single beer almost ended Survivor, and how dodgeball woke me up

Plus: a conversation with Hoarders' Matt Paxton

Dear newsletter friends,

If you’ve been reading my work for a while, you know I cannot get enough of silly, fun shows where people bounce off of things, like Wipeout’s big red balls.

So it was with great anticipation that I tuned in to Discovery Channel’s new Dodgeball Thunderdome on Wednesday, hoping for a new Holey Moley (my current favorite in this sub-genre).

Instead—well, read my review and you’ll see what I discovered.

While I may never watch it again, I do appreciate that it gave me some energy and an outlet for my righteous indignation. It was a cathartic piece to write!

Survivor Borneo’s mutiny over a beer

jeff probst smile GIF by CBS

As part of my Survivor: Borneo rewatch, I shared the story of the show’s first-ever mutiny, and how Bud Light inadvertently caused it and also saved the show.

Also in my rewatch recap: the very first reference in reality TV history (I think!) to flying under the radar.

I first heard Jeff Probst tell the story earlier this year, but a reader reports that Mark Burnett told it in Survivor: The Ultimate Game back in 2000.

Speaking of Mark Burnett: the show he created before Survivor, Eco-Challenge, returned last week, now retitled as World’s Toughest Race: Eco-Challenge Fiji.

It’s extraordinary television and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

And speaking of shows with “tough” in the title, I’m just loving Tough As Nails more and more—it’s really been the surprise of the summer. Read my (second) review here.

News and an interview

I also recommend this new show, which premiered on PBS earlier this year: Legacy List with Matt Paxton.

It’s kind of a mash-up of American Pickers, Antiques Roadshow, and Hoarders (but no dead animals here), and if you like Matt on Hoarders, I think you’ll like him here, too.

I talked with Matt about it, and he told me why networks rejected his new show repeatedly, and also about filming his new show and Hoarders now, mid-pandemic.

Read that interview—it’s a deep dive into two reality TV productions that I hope you find as fascinating as I did.

In the news this week:

Before we end for this week, are you registered to vote? You can check on, a nonprofit that doesn’t work with any individual candidates or political parties. It also has a way to find out if you can vote by mail.

Or, are you like me, registered to vote, intending to vote, and wondering what else you can do? I signed up with Vote Forward to write letters to people, encouraging them to vote.

It seems like the least I can do to help save our democracy. After all, I still feel responsible for playing a role in where we find ourselves today: led by a man who even Republicans and conservatives think is “dangerously unfit.”

On that cheery note, have a terrific rest of your Friday and an excellent weekend! See you next Friday.


🌄 This is Reality in Focus issue 208, first sent 21 August 2020, and it usually got picked last for dodgeball.

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📷 Photo of Hume Lake in California by James Gibson