According to Mark Twain, there's no such thing as a new idea.

And never has a truer word been spoken when it comes to our TV schedules, currently awash with local versions of successful international formats.

Two such shows launched on our screens once again this past week, with a second outing for both Survivor New Zealand and First Dates NZ, each famous for the dangerous quests their brave contestants must undertake (surviving in the jungle versus navigating a blind date).

For our latest local offering of Survivor, host Matt Chisholm has his scheming band of contestants surviving on mouthfuls of raw rice in a remote Thai jungle.


Divided into their obligatory competing tribes of Chani and Khangkhaw, this new crop of Sole Survivor wannabes are subjected to several of the show's trademarks straight away: clandestine manoeuvring to secure a voting alliance ahead of Tribal Council, snarky comments about fellow contestants, and super-elaborate team challenges.

Survivor NZ season two sees the cast stranded in a remote Thai jungle.
Survivor NZ season two sees the cast stranded in a remote Thai jungle.

It's a reality TV format that can inspire a passionate, dedicated following. I should know because I was a card-carrying member of the Survivor superfan club once upon a time.

Way back in 2001, when Survivor was still the new sensation shaking up everything we knew about television, my cousin and I got hooked on season three while traveling in Canada. So great was our obsession, we rescheduled our flights out of the country when we realised we would otherwise miss the season finale.

In our defence (although I'm not sure there is one), this was years before you could catch up on a TV show online.

Would I do the same thing now for an opportunity to watch the final of Survivor? Not a chance. And not because it's now easy to find and enjoy an episode of a show after the fact, or because I potentially got a life in the interim.

It's because after nearly 18 years, I've more than had my fill of Tribal Councils, schoolyard-esque backstabbing and comically convoluted challenges, even if this second series of the New Zealand version looks more promising than its inaugural run. Given its age, the format simply can't help but look and feel fatigued.

First Dates, on the other hand, is a premise that's still a spring chicken by comparison.

It's also a refreshingly simple concept. There's no immunity idols, alliance skulduggery or jumping through literal hoops.

You simply turn up at the First Dates restaurant, have dinner with a complete stranger, engage in some awkward chat (helped along by a liberal sprinkling of shots) and then decide on camera if you want to see your date ever again.


Unlike the Survivor viewing experience, First Dates is also a charming slice of TV that's easy to dip in and out of with no long-term commitment required – much like the dates themselves. And while we've probably all had a first date that makes 40 days in the wilderness with no food or shelter look positively enticing, that's not the case (yet) in this second season of First Dates NZ.

Brave daters featuring in the first episode include ZM radio host PJ Harding, whose amusingly awkward banter could not be better suited to the strange environment that is First Dates; Natalie, a 21-year-old who is terrified of tomato sauce; and Jimmy, a timid 24-year-old data scientist who's never, ever, been on a date and has googled some pick-up lines as preparation for his big moment.

Then, there's 61-year-old Sue, who is looking for a new dance partner in life, and Barry, a lonely 60-year-old widower, who shows the younger generations how it's done, turning up to the First Dates restaurant in his best suit with a bunch of flowers at the ready.

Watching Baz and Sue's flirty banter and seeing them so delighted that another shot at love and companionship might be on the cards is a pleasure. It may not be the $250,000 prize on offer over at Survivor New Zealand – but it might just be priceless.

Survivor New Zealand screens Sundays at 7pm on TVNZ 2; First Dates NZ screens Thursdays at 8.30pm on TVNZ 2