<i>'Survivor' admits its ‘reality’ is sometimes faked

By Jim Rutenberg / New York Times News Service

Ever wonder how Survivor, CBS' top-rated reality program, manages to get such perfect camera shots of its contestants as they battle against one another and the elements for cash prizes in exotic locales?

Simple, said Mark Burnett, the show's executive producer: He sometimes uses re-enactments of the competitions – played out by stand-ins for the contestants – to help give it the high production values that have won such high praise from critics.

The acknowledgment is certain to fuel the simmering debate over just how real the popular, big network reality programs are.

But, Mr. Burnett said during an interview Tuesday, “I absolutely couldn't care less – I'm making great television.”

He said the re-enactments were harmless because they never affected the outcomes of the contests or the show itself.

Mr. Burnett said he only used re- enactments when he felt he was lacking camera angles of a given event.

For instance, he said, there was one time during the fall when he wanted a camera crew to take aerial shots of a river swimming race between the contestants of Survivor: The Australian Outback, which completed its run last week.

But, he said, he knew that shots taken from a helicopter would show all of the cameras filming the race on the ground, ruining the aerial effect.

“So we had stand-ins re-swim the race” for the helicopter crew, he said. The shots of the stand-ins were later mixed in with the shots of the actual race, he said.

CBS said it had no problem with Mr. Burnett's use of stand-ins.

“I'm sure the Survivor conspiracy theorists will go crazy with this,” said Chris Ender, a spokesman for CBS, which is owned by Viacom. “But what Mark is talking about is nothing more than window dressing – it doesn't involve the contestants, and doesn't in any manner influence the outcome of any challenge or change the result of what happened.” </i