By Michael Slezak
Updated August 24, 2006 at 02:00 PM EDT

I’ve gotta say: I’m wicked jazzed about Mark Burnett’s announcement that the upcoming Survivor: Cook Islands will initially divide its 20 players along racial lines — white, black, Asian, and Hispanic. As for those of you who think it’s a cheap stunt that will damage the addictive franchise by unnecessarily stirring up ethnic tensions for nothing more than a short-term ratings spike, consider what CBS Entertainment President Nina Tassler told EW’s own Dalton Ross this week: ”Survivor is a show that explores social politics. So, what can you explore that leads to those kinds of really interesting discussions?”

Gee, I just hope this means that by fall 2008, we’ll have ourselves a Survivor season that’ll segregate teams of Christians, Jews, Muslims, and atheists. Then, producers can spice up those tired old challenges by, say, substituting religious icons for the personalized tiles that opposing teams typically try to smash with projectiles. Wouldn’t that be, like, totally rad? Heck, to “take it to the next level” (as they say in the biz) — and of course, drive buzz and ad dollars — why not a very special Survivor: Rikers Island? Sure, scenes of homemade shanks being driven into players’ backs might rile the FCC, but as long as the show ”explores social politics” that lead to ”really interesting discussions” about simmering racial tensions in the prison population, I don’t see any reason not to proceed.

Can’t wait. How ’bout you, PopWatchers?

addCredit(“Survivor Cook Island: Monty Brinton/CBS”)