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Showdown: 'Friends' vs. 'Survivor'

Never mind TV: the two competing shows vie for viewers on the Net, too

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The execs behind CBS’ Survivor 2 and NBC’s Friends are vying for prime-time supremacy on Thursdays, in a battle for ratings worth way more than a million dollars. But the weekly Nielsen numbers can’t tell us as much about the outcome of this duel as the Web-wielding public can. Elisabeth Filarski already has roughly the same number of Yahoo! Clubs as Courteney Cox Arquette does, which goes to show that this rivalry will be as unpredictable as Colby and Jerri’s romance. And the supporters of the Kucha and Ogakor teams are just as passionate as the people who are infatuated with apartments 19 and 20. So which show’s websites will win big this season?

— MOST OBSESSIVE Despite accusations that the site is in cahoots with exec producer Mark Burnett, SurvivorSucks.com creator Paul Sims insists his Survivor scoops came from scrutinizing every photo, advertisement, and quote for clues. ”I don’t anticipate getting much that way this time,” he says. For Friends fans, meanwhile, fixation is a badge of honor. On the Good Friends site there’s an Obsession With Friends page (good-friends. net/obsessed), with a bulleted list of telltale personality traits (No. 6: ”You are a webmaster of a Friends site”). WINNER: Friends

— BIGGEST NEWSHOUND The age-old Usenet newsgroup alt.tv.friends is still the Associated Press of the Central Perk crowd. The CNN of the outback is SurvivorNews.net, which tracks sources as far-flung as Southern Illinois University’s Daily Egyptian (Kel Gleason’s an alum). WINNER: Survivor

— MOST DEVOTED The Holy Altar of Cox the Superb (members.tri pod.com/~holyaltarcoxsuperb) is a religious experience for followers of this cult’s rules, which include making Sept. 22 — the day Friends premiered in 1994 — a ”Holyday.” And while KelGleason.com and ElisabethFilarski.net (sevaan.com/filarski) do their best with annoying contestants, nothing as zealous as The Rich Dance (therichdance.tripod.com) — which shows Hatch dancing triumphantly — has come along yet. WINNER: Friends

— FUNNIEST The anti-Friends contingent couldn’t seem to tear themselves away from Buffy the Vampire Slayer long enough to launch a worthwhile We’re Not Friends campaign. But Survivornut.com is already selling paintings of Colleen’s scab-encrusted leg and portraits of all the Survivor 2 contestants. WINNER: Survivor

The envelope, please: With a five-season lead, Friends will stick together for now. But don’t underestimate those tricky Survivor fans: Like Richard Hatch, they’ll do anything to win.