Okay. Siberia is a scripted show, but it's pretending to be a reality show. Called Siberia. There's a fine line between "meta" and "deliberately confusing," but we'll get through this together. There are sixteen (!) contestants on the show, which is too many to really get to know in one episode. Just like on a real reality show!
The premise of the reality show is that sixteen people get flown out to Tunguska and… that's it. This is a show with -- they keep telling us -- no rules or games. All the contestants have to do is survive to the end of a Siberian winter without giving up and they'll split five hundred thousand dollars. But right after announcing all that, there's a game where everyone has to race to the camp and the last two people get eliminated. So maybe there are rules after all?
In the race, most of the contestants just cluster together in the middle and walk to the camp. Johnny the bull-riding jerk and Neeko the noble rugby player run ahead of everyone and get there first, although Sabina somehow teleports in front of them. Daniel the computer programmer hurts his foot, and Tommy the environmental activist carries him. And for no apparent reason, Berglind runs off the path and gets lost while Harpreet follows her. So they're both out, and you can already forget they exist.
Once they get to the camp, a bunch of standard Survivor tropes get trotted out, including The Passive-Aggressive Struggle About Leadership and The Guy Who Thinks He Can Start Fire With Two Sticks, But Can't. Johnny has a lighter, but he won't tell anyone about it. So it's up to Daniel to save the day by starting a fire with his glasses. You know, exactly like in Lord of the Flies.
Then a team goes out looking for mushrooms and they get separated. And this is bad news for the part of the team that consists of Tommy, because he gets killed. That's right: killed! Tommy got killed! And one of the show's camera operators was horribly injured, which is our first sign that something's wrong. But the producers won't tell the contestants anything, so the first mystery is established: what killed Tommy? It was probably Bigfoot.
We open on a mountain ridge. It's covered in trees and not that much snow, which disappoints me. I may not know much about Siberia, but snow figures prominently in my mental picture. And there's a helicopter that contains several blindfolded people. The whole thing is scored by generic "exciting" music that's almost exactly midway between Survivor and The Amazing Race. The blindfolded people get out of the helicopter and are led in a line down to a field.
An Australian gentleman with whom I am not familiar announces, "Sixteen total strangers stand before you." They're in a real-life social experiment with no games or rules. That sounds terrible, doesn't it? I like rules. They help define the experiment. Anyway, they're trying to win $500,000, and the only way out is to forfeit and go home. They got on a plane eight hours ago in London and they don't know where they are. They look pretty together for people that have been flying for eight hours.
They remove their blindfolds. Aussie Host tells them this is a completely new adventure and the playing field is "The Siberian wilderness." It's so wilderness-y out here that there aren't roads between the cities. They'll have no modern conveniences and will have to live like people did a hundred years ago. And again, if they survive the winter, they'll split $500,000. And the crazy part is that there will be no interference at all. They're just being dumped here with a camera crew.
So what's going on here is that this is a scripted drama about a fictional reality show. And so far, everything is being presented as though we're watching the reality show, but I don't think they can continue that through the whole season. I don't know how they can fully Blair Witch this thing, since there's eventually going to be a problem with the camera crew.
Back to Aussie Host, who is not at all a ripoff of Phil Keoghan. Phil is a New Zealand Host, which is completely different. This Entirely Original Aussie Host tells the contestants that there's an old fur-trading settlement two miles due east. It was abandoned by fourteen inhabitants a hundred years ago for no known reason. And it's been restored to exactly the state it was in when it was abandoned. So it sounds like a perfectly safe place to set a reality show! There are red flags marking a path through the forest, and the last two contestants to arrive will be sent home immediately. He said there would be no games! And now we've got an elimination challenge right off the bat. This is an outrage. Also, although everyone packed for a wilderness vacation, they don't get to bring their bags. Well, that isn't much of a twist. Survivor does this all the time.