Dear Mark Burnett,

I'm a fan of Survivor, and yes, it's true, you have a very successful formula with that show: part adventure, part social experiment, part game show. Against all odds, it's still working even though it seems like it should have gotten boring a long, long time ago.

But the formula is not fool-proof. Take a look at your new show, Pirate Master. On the surface, it looks very much like Survivor. People live in tough, bizarre surroundings; they compete in complicated challenges that must require a boat-load of set designers; there's scheming and backstabbing. Sheesh, even the credits and the interview segments are put together the same.


But Pirate Master is not Survivor. It's missing a few important components, the most important being a sense of humor. Survivor host Jeff Probst seems very haughty and self-important, but the more I see Pirate host Cameron Daddo, the more I realize that Probst is actually looking at everything with a kind of winking acknowledgment of the absurdities being perpetrated.

Daddo acts as if he's actually walking among modern-day pirates. He is walking among a group of adults who are PLAYING A GAME OF MAKE-BELIEVE. However fake and formulated the surroundings are on Survivor, it turns out the contestants really are trying to survive, to some extent. The Pirate contestants are playing pretend, and they are all being dead serious about it.

And let's be frank: The captain's hat and the officers' jackets just amp up the the make-believe factor. (Not to mention the fact that the hat seemed to give new captain Azmyth a mysterious and inconsistent semi-British accent last night, but that's a whole other post.)

So Mr. Burnett, here is hoping that you will realize that a couple of tweaks on the formula won't give you the same result.

And by the way, I'm very upset you've put me in a position of defending twerpy Jeff Probst, but this is what it's come to.