Keeping it real on Survivor: Host Jeff Probst loves going live for reunion show.
By Alex Strachan, Canwest News ServiceMay 11, 2009
The great thing about cliches, to hear Jeff Probst tell it, is that they're mostly true. Never let 'em see you sweat. Make it look easy. If you look as if you're having fun while hosting Survivor's live reunion show, chances are, people watching will have fun, too - both the contestants on the stage and the viewers watching at home.
As Survivor Tocantins: The Brazilian Highlands winds down to its May 17 season finale and live-reunion program, the Emmy-winning Probst is preparing the only way he knows: through total immersion.
Most weeks, Survivor is a study in how to manipulate the viewing audience. For each day spent on location, three days are spent in the editing suite, deciding each castaway's plot line for that episode. The process is highly secretive - outsiders, especially reporters, are barred - and nothing is left to chance. Every expression, every word, every note of music is calculated for effect.
The live reunion shows are different, though.
And, perhaps surprisingly, Probst purely loves the process of ``going live.''
``I love live television,'' Probst told Canwest News Service in a telephone interview, sounding upbeat and energetic. ``I love the experience; it reminds me of why I got into this business in the first place.''
Hosting Survivor's live reunion shows is about being in the moment, while keeping one eye on the clock. Probst announces the winner - good drama is all about the dramatic pause, he says - then segues to commercial during the post- reveal celebrations.
During the break, he checks to see how much time is left, then takes it from there.
``Every year, I tell the producers that this time I may not get to all 16 people, and they're fine with that,'' Probst said. ``It creates an out for me, and that takes the pressure off.
``But then I think to myself: This may be their last time on television. Their families, their friends, possibly everybody they grew up with, is watching, and they'll probably never get there again. I have an obligation to fit everyone in.''
Survivor's reunion programs are not like late-night talk shows, where celebrity guests come with pre-prepared talking points and the show bookers have often prepped the celebrities in advance.
``I'm talking to people who are not used to being on live TV,'' Probst explained. ``During the break, I'll pick out a couple of people and say, `Remember, I'm going to ask you this after the break.' And by the time we get back, they'll have completely forgotten about it. Or they'll decide it's not something they want to talk about on national television, after all. But that's part of what makes it real.''
Probst is determined to get everyone in, though, no matter what.
``I try to have at least one question for everybody who appeared in the show. It seems only right. There's a constant time crunch, though.''
Probst is also philosophical about co-hosting last September's Emmy Awards ceremony - unscripted - with American Idol's Ryan Seacrest, Deal or No Deal's Howie Mandel, Project Runway's Heidi Klum and Dancing with the Stars' Tom Bergeron.
As The Hollywood Reporter reported at the time, the ceremony had more than its share of snarky backbiting, on-camera confessionals and alliances dividing the room.
The hosts couldn't agree on a sketch beforehand - ``It's hard to get five people to agree on anything,'' Probst told The Hollywood Reporter at the time - so they went onstage with nothing prepared.
The resulting show was pilloried by the critics and drew the ire of Entourage winner Jeremy Piven, the evening's first Emmy recipient, who complained about the opening during his acceptance speech. Ironically, Probst himself won an Emmy later in the evening.
``It was an experience I won't soon forget,'' Probst said. ``I had the high of winning, and the low of hosting.''
As for his summer vacation plans - Survivor has filmed in some of the most alluring vacation spots in the world, including the Marquesas Islands in French Polynesia and the Pacific island paradises of Palau, Vanuatu and Fiji - Probst's answer may come as a surprise.
``I plan to pack some things in my car and just go,'' he said. ``I'm a road- trip guy. I don't go for any of these big adventure-travel-type trips. I get enough of that just through doing Survivor.''
Don't be surprised, then, if you see Probst this summer filling up at a gas station near you.http://www.canada.com/story_print.html?id=1584906&sponsor=