Got a Bone to Pick With 'Survivor'? Take a Number

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Despite our inherent love of conflict, it's tough for most Americans to root for a group that launches its protest by chanting "Rats have Rights!" But that's exactly what the folks over at the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals are planning to do outside the CBS studios during Dan Rather's evening news broadcast Friday night.

So what's got them in such a state? Well, on Wednesday's episode of CBS's hit show "Survivor," the islanders were seen hunting, grilling and, yes, eating the wild rats that populate the tropical paradise. The animal-rights group is reportedly "horrified" that the network would permit such inhumane treatment of the rats (which apparently are so numerous they run roughshod over sleeping cast members).

Oh, and they're also really, really mad that cast members had the unmitigated gall to catch fish (yes, fish!) in the waters surrounding their island prison.

What would the PETA people have the islanders do, chew on sand?

Unfortunately for CBS, logic does not seem to be a strong point among many protesters, a point that no doubt has the honchos at the Tiffany network sweating in their suits as they consider the other groups who might have a complaint as a result of the "Survivor" show.

Think about it — the PETA protest could be just the first pebble in an avalanche of action against "Survivor" as angry people everywhere find an aspect of the show they don't like. And it might get nasty — after all, if the show's got a cool million to hand out to the last sap left on the island, they can certainly scrape together a handsome out-of-court settlement for some "victim" with restitution on his or her mind. (Too bad they kicked that nice lawyer off the show.)

So here, in a fit of generosity toward the most successful current show on television, are's predictions as to the players (and their complaints) in the next generation of "Survivor" protests:

1. The American Psychological Association: "This 'television program' (if that's what CBS insists on calling it), is wreaking havoc on the collective psyche of the American public by promoting a thoroughly unrealistic view of interpersonal interactions. How, after all, are the nation's citizens supposed to maintain functional work and personal relationships if, at the first sign of trouble, they can just 'vote someone off their island'? That might work on television, but in real life, no man is an island unto himself, and besides, pretty much nobody really lives on an island these days. Once we have worked through these (and many other) issues, we would also recommend that CBS send its staff to us for at least a year of intensive sessions. Please send those poor 'Survivor' cast-offs as well. (We'd be happy to work out some sort of bulk-rate discount.)"

2. J. Crew: "We are concerned that the success of CBS's 'Survivor' program is encouraging Americans to adopt an unhealthy and unrealistic attitude toward clothing. We have been monitoring the wardrobe on the show and have not seen nearly the number of clothing changes that we would like to witness on such a popular program. After consulting with our lawyers, we have determined that we would be remiss if we did not point out to you that Americans have a basic, primitive need for many, many articles of clothing. In lots of fun and vibrant colors. We know you'll agree: Isn't it hot and sticky over there? Shouldn't people have access to more linen? Here at J. Crew we pride ourselves on creating clothing that everyone can wear for both work and play. In fact, during a staff meeting this morning on Nantucket, we were sipping our fresh-brewed iced tea after a rigorous game of touch football on the lawn when it occurred to us that our summer 2000 line would work extremely well in a tropical island setting. Think bold prints, understated lines and classic comfort: We're sending you several samples, and hope you will forward them on to your 'castaways' without delay."

3. The American Association of Retired Persons: "What's going on over there at CBS amounts to nothing more than a vendetta against people in their golden years. Did anyone happen to notice that two of the first three suckers kicked off the island were older than Moses? Dammit, CBS, we're old and cranky enough. Don't you know any better than to tick us off? We've got more money floating around in Washington on any given day than you guys make in 20 sweep weeks. So straighten up and fly right or, dammit, we'll have our buddies over at the FCC close you down faster than you can say 'Geritol.'"

4. The Sandbox Manufacturers of America: "We are outraged that CBS would permit such obvious disregard for sand. Exactly what kind of message are we sending to the youth of America when 'Survivor' cast members are free to relieve themselves at will right there on the beach? CBS programming executives must ask themselves if they are prepared to face up to their responsibility for turning the nation's sandboxes into so many toilets."

5. The Antibacterial Soap Makers of America: "Look, we're having a tough week over here. First the AMA practically tells people that our products are responsible for the demise of Western civilization, and then CBS just keeps raking in the ratings for a show whose dominant theme seems to be 'You don't need soap, America! Look at us! Soap-free for almost three weeks and we're surviving just fine!' This is just not the way we wanted to usher in what we thought had the potential to be a maniacally germ-phobic new century."

6. The Television Writers' Guild of America: "You people over at CBS make us sick. How the heck are we supposed to earn a living in this town when all you care about is pushing these stupid 'reality' programs? You can't just let people wander all over some island without scripts! They sound like, well, like real people! And nobody wants to see the equivalent of their next-door neighbors when they turn on the TV! Trust us on this one: This real-life angle is a recipe for disaster — not to mention a major union strike. But don't worry; it probably won't come to that. The American public will never let you get away with this. They know that daily exposure to stilted dialogue is every bit as much a God-given right as access to a static-free cell phone with unlimited local calls."