‘Survivor’: Is Jimmy Johnson too famous to be a contestant?

08.09.10 9 years ago 24 Comments

I’m recuperating from press tour, so posting’s going to be light for the next few days, other than regularly-scheduled stuff like Firefly. (I also have to catch up on a bunch of the other regular shows that are sitting on my DVR.) But I couldn’t resist commenting a bit on the announcement of the “Survivor: Nicaragua” cast. Dan has a gallery of all the contestants, who are split into old and young teams – a twist that’s not as novel as the show is suggesting, since that’s how the schoolyard pick approach largely defined the “Survivor: Thailand” teams – but after the jump, I want to focus on one contesant in particular.

So the big news, rumored for so long I’m surprised no one asked Nina Tassler about it during her press tour session, is that one of the contestants is Jimmy Johnson. Two-time Super Bowl-winning Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson. Former college national championship coach Jimmy Johnson. National television football analyst Jimmy Johnson. Male enhancement spokesperson Jimmy Johnson. Owner of one of the most famous hairstyles in modern American history (along with Jennifer Anniston, Mary Tyler Moore and Snooki) Jimmy Johnson. 

In other words, the most famous contestant in reality show history, outside of shows specifically designed to feature “celebrities” – and he’s more famous than most of them, too.

Now, he’s not the first famous person to compete on “Survivor” – not even the first person affiliated with the Dallas Cowboys. The Guatemala season featured ex-quarterback Gary Hogeboom – who, in a memorable bit of silliness, tried to pretend he was a landscaper named Gary Hawkins, even after another contestant recognized him – not to mention Stephenie and Bobby Jon from the previous season, who were probably considered bigger stars even by the contestants who knew who Gary Hogeboom was.

Johnson’s celebrity is on another plane, though. He won’t be able to use an alias, that’s for sure. And I wonder if adding somebody this famous to the cast goes against the spirit of “Survivor,” or if we’re at the point in the franchise where they might as well try anything, up to and including having the famous compete against the non-famous.

As Fienberg pointed out when the rumors first surfaced, Johnson’s presence guarantees many of us will tune in for an episode or two just to see what happens to his hair when it’s out in the elements (unless he just covered it in shellac before he got on the plane), and as twists go, both his presence and the old vs. young gimmick are both preferable to the rumored Boston Rob vs. Russell concept for the following season. Johnson’s presence suggests an aging show searching for ways to catch your attention beyond “Here’s a really good season of ‘Survivor.'” But if they have to feature Russell in three out of the four most recent seasons, that suggests a show that has no idea whatsoever how to attract viewers anymore.

Johnson appears at the 2:45 mark in the video I embedded in this post. What do you think? Should “Survivor” have a place for the coach of dem Cowboys? 

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