Battle of the Shows: Survivor vs. Big Brother

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As two of the most popular reality competition shows on CBS, Survivor and Big Brother have been a part of a long, heated discussion as to which show is better.

They both have been on the air since 2000, and while the games have evolved for both competitions, there are millions of diehard fans who are willing to defend their favorite.

Our TV Fanatics Whitney Evans and Sarah Little sat down to discuss the similarities and differences between Survivor and Big Brother and make their cases as to which reality television series is superior.

Ovi Kabir on Big Brother 21

Whitney: Okay, so let's just get right into it. Why do you think Survivor is the superior reality show?

Sarah: There are a lot of things that make Survivor great. But I think one of the main reasons why it is better than Big Brother is that most, if not all, of the contestants are Survivor fans.

They know the game, they've studied it, and they are super passionate about becoming the Sole Survivor. On Big Brother, at least on recent seasons, a lot of the contestants have been recruits who just want their moment of fame.

Whitney: That's a decent point. The casting of Big Brother could use some tweaks. But what makes Big Brother such an experience is the access we get to not only the game but the contestants.

The live feeds add a whole other dimension to the broadcast show and give us insight into the players, their motivations, and their gameplay in a way Survivor never does.

Adam Points - Survivor

Sarah: That is very true! With Big Brother, you literally get 24/7 access for the most part. There is the Ponderosa web series that documents the jury is sequester on Survivor, but that only shows you so much.

For Survivor though, I think the lesser footage makes it more exciting and surprising at some parts. With Big Brother, you can watch the live feeds and find out who won the HOH three days before it's aired on TV.

Whereas with Survivor, you get the added bonus of the editor adding in exciting music and tense cutaways that make watching a competition or blindside all the more fun.

Whitney: While Survivor blindsides are a staple, the Big Brother blindsides give them a run for their money. There are times where you can watch the houseguest scrambling around the morning of an eviction trying to figure out whom to evict.

By the time the show airs live, it can be totally up in the air who will be evicted.

Jackson Michie on Big Brother 21

Sarah: Those blindsides are always epic, and they definitely get the heart pumping during a live show. The same goes for double evictions. But I think that the one thing that Survivor has over Big Brother is the number of advantages.

Some could argue that there has gotten to be too many, but that doesn't take away from the fact that it can change a Tribal Council in an instant.

Just look at the episode of Game Changers when Cirie got voted out because she was literally the only one without an advantage. It's cruel for sure, but those kinds of tribals go down in history.

Whitney: Big Brother doesn't have as many advantages, but they are known for their twists. We've had twins playing unbeknownst to the houseguests, Pandora's box, and who can forget the Coup d'Etat in Season 11.

Jessie's eviction still goes down as one of the most shocking in the series history.

Endurance Competition - Survivor

Sarah: Big Brother has had some amazing twists on past seasons, but I feel like they have kind of fell short on recent seasons. If they brought back Pandora's Box or introduced a crazy twist that was akin to the early days, I think it might just be up to par with Survivor.

Not to mention, the season themes of Survivor -- Blood vs. Water, Winners at War, Heroes vs. Villains -- have bumped up the overall quality of the show. Big Brother has sometimes fallen short when it comes to that.

Whitney: But Big Brother doesn't fall short when it comes to the drama, no matter what the theme of the season is.

The themes aren't quite as necessary because while both games only have one winner, in the end, Big Brother is much more of a one-person game the whole way through.

There have been some seasons that have started with teams, but for the most part from the beginning, you and you alone can secure your safety.

Cliff Returns to the Game - Big Brother

Sarah: Big Brother definitely wins out when it comes to the drama! And that is very true about the individual game, but I also think that's a strength of Survivor too.

You start out on different tribes where you are forced to work in a group so you don't have to go to Tribal Council. That forces the players to make alliances and can create unbreakable bonds because they go through a lot together.

And I love watching epic alliances like Denise and Malcolm or Wendell and Dominic dominate the game.

Whitney: That's interesting because Big Brother audiences overall don't love to watch people dominate the game. Which brings me to the competitions.

The Big Brother competitions are so varied that it leaves the field wide open in terms of who can win any challenge. I like that you can go into a Veto Competition or a Head of Household competition and truly not know who is going to win.

Jeff - Survivor

Sarah: I think it depends on how likable the people are who are dominating the game! The Power of Veto definitely makes Big Brother interesting, giving the at-risk players a chance to save themselves.

I would argue though that the Survivor competitions, while can be seen as more simple, are very effective in bringing out the best, and sometimes the worst, in players because of the physical nature of them.

Survivor has more endurance challenges than Big Brother, given the physical nature of the game, and are way more intense to watch, especially with Jeff screaming at them.

Whitney: It's hard to compare the challenges because, given the elements and lack of food, the Survivor challenges are more difficult. But they do tend to lean more towards athletics.

One great thing about Big Brother is that above all else it's a social game. Competition wins are important but the relationships you make are arguably more important at the end of the game.

Memory Wall - Big Brother

Sarah: They are two very different games in that regard. I would agree that Big Brother is a more social game, but Survivor is more than a social game. The mantra is Outwit, Outplay, Outlast.

Your social game is a huge component of becoming the Sole Survivor, but it also comes down to your mental and physical game.

Whitney: If you had to pick though, which one is more important when you're making your case to the jury?

Rob and Amber - Survivor

Sarah: I think it really depends on the jury, especially as of late. But with Survivor, they have been known to respect the physical and mental game too when deciding who should win.

To me, a social game is a lot about making people like you and wanting to give you the money over others, and you are right, it is probably the most important part of someone's game.

But on Survivor, they always talk about building resumes, and that means making smart, big moves at the right time -- AKA blindsides at Tribal Council. And that plays into the mental game.

But you can't make those big moves unless you're able to come back from Tribal Council and still be on good terms with a majority of the tribe, which is the social game.

Soap Competition - Big Brother

Whitney: Great point. A bitter jury is a big thing in Big Brother, and it can be debated whether or not it's a good thing or a bad thing.

But the social game is probably more important on Big Brother because from day 1 you are with these people and if you're lucky enough to make it to the jury, you were in that house for many weeks.

So it's important that each houseguest you send to the jury has a more favorable opinion of not only you but the game you played. That will ultimately matter more than how many vetos you won over the season.

Sarah: Exactly, Big Brother is very much about pissing people off a lot less than the person sitting next to you at the end did. Whether a social game or a physical game is better doesn't really matter much in the end though when the winner gets their check.

Tony and Sarah - Survivor

Whitney: Alright, so have I convinced you Big Brother is the better reality show? Or you sticking with Survivor?

Sarah: This is hard because I love both shows and think they make for great television, but after all of this I think I have to stick with Survivor.

Like I mentioned before, I love the fact that everyone who plays is passionate about the game, and a lot of them care more about earning the title of Sole Survivor than getting the money.

I also believe there are many different sides to Survivor that are worth discussing and picking apart. At the end of the day though, both Survivor and Big Brother are great social experiments.

What about you? Still sticking with Big Brother?
Wall Competition - Big Brother

Whitney: Survivor is a fun game, but I'm sticking with Big Brother. It's truly a fan's game, and it's so easy with the live feeds to get completely entrenched in the game.

Are there flaws? Of course, but overall Big Brother has been an enjoyable social experiment that puts people from all over the country into a tiny house and forces them to rely on their social skills, physical attributes, and some luck to be the last houseguest to walk out the doors.

We've been trained to expect the unexpected, and Big Brother doesn't let us down.

What do you think TV Fanatics?

Which is the superior reality competition show -- Survivor or Big Brother?

Let us know in the comments!

Sarah Little was a staff writer for TV Fanatic.She retired in September 2021.

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