Survivor's Jeff Probst breaks down key to series' success

Jeff Probst seen in this file photo on July 29, 2012. (REUTERS/Phil McCarten)

Jeff Probst seen in this file photo on July 29, 2012. (REUTERS/Phil McCarten)

Bill Harris, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:44 PM ET

Hey Canada, Jeff Probst has bedroom eyes for you.

Probst, of course, is the executive producer and host of Survivor, which literally changed the course of TV history. Currently airing its 28th season on CBS and Global, Survivor continues to be as solid as a rock in the ratings.

Probst was in Toronto on Thursday to speak at an industry event known as “TV Day – Tuned In 2014.” But his presence in Canada also got him pondering the incredible loyalty Canadian viewers have shown Survivor.

When I suggested the relationship between Survivor and Canada was almost romantic, perhaps even sexual, Probst said, “It is! I'm turned on often when I think of Canada. Aroused, I guess.

“We've talked for years about how well the show does here. There's a kinship that we don't have with any other country. I mean, I'll get texts or tweets from South Africa, and they love the show, but it's not like it is with Canada.”

It's hard to believe Survivor debuted 14 years ago, in 2000. It has gone from being the new kid on the block, challenging formats and shifting attitudes, to being one of TV's absolute staples.

“Well, when you said it, it definitely rang true,” Probst said. “Maybe this year is the year that feels fully realized, because I'm looking at the ratings and we've started beating American Idol in the States.

“Now, Idol killed every show in its path for a decade. That show is historic. But as it starts to drop, we're not. We're just staying right where we were, because we have a loyal fan base. So it does feel like, wow, Survivor has really survived.”

While I would argue that Survivor, as a psychological game, ultimately will have more staying power than talent shows, Probst wisely didn't want to make any proclamations. But to survive, he knows Survivor has to stay on top of things in one crucial area.

“The cast has to be great,” Probst said emphatically. “That's where we spend most of our time.”

But with so many people familiar with Survivor now, is it harder to cast today than it was 14 years ago?

“I think that's a good question,” Probst said. “I think you're probably onto something, which is, it probably is tougher to cast now than it was in season one. Yeah, I never thought about that.

“I have noticed that in the last probably five years, so the past 10 seasons (Survivor airs two seasons per calendar year), our casting has ratcheted up. We've had more memorable players in the last several seasons than we had in the first seasons. And I think it's because we continue to learn.

“But it's interesting, I think you're right, I think it used to be easier to cast. That's probably why it takes longer now.”

Well, like all good romances, you need to take your time. That helps to keep the spark alive between Survivor and Canada.

“The love affair between Survivor and Canada has been there since Day One,” Probst said. “It always has been mutual.”

 

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

Twitter: @billharris_tv


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