By Stephen M. Silverman
June 02, 1998 12:00 AM

CBS’s “Survivor: The Australian Outback,” the inevitable follow-up to “Survivor,” last summer’s sleeper hit, is looking to take no prisoners, at least not in the ratings, reports PEOPLE in its new cover story. The sequel premieres in the optimal slot after Super Bowl XXXV on Jan. 28. Then, four days later, it moves to Thursdays at 8 p.m. (ET) — a scheduling gambit so bold that nervous suits at rival NBC are expanding “Friends” to 40 minutes, followed by 20 minutes of live “Saturday Night Live” sketches for the four episodes that air during sweeps. ” ‘Friends’ is in the Top 5 — that’s a tough one to top,” media analyst Tim Spengler tells PEOPLE. But if “Survivor II” remains “as continually compelling as the original,” he says, beating the seven-year-old sitcom “is quite possible.” Unfortunately for the aging cuties over at “Friends,” the “Outback” contestants are on the whole sexier than the original band. (The producers “would have loved to have another 72-year-old Navy SEAL,” the show’s host, Jeff Probst, tells the magazine, referring to Rudy Boesch, 72. “There wasn’t one this time.”) So, among the new outcasts: Alicia Calaway, 32, winner of the 1994 Ms. Connecticut Amateur Natural Bodybuilding Competition, who “has incredible shoulders and butt,” according to another trainer. And according to his mother, contestant Jeff Varner, 34, a Manhattan Internet project manager (and former cheerleading captain at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill), has “beautiful blueish-green eyes, gorgeous teeth, a beautiful smile, really smooth olive skin and good bone structure.” Chandler and company, watch out.

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