Probst survives talk show’s launchBy Nestor U. Torre
Philippine Daily Inquirer
For many years, Jeff Probst hosted the hit “Survivor” reality challenge on TV. This season, he’s reinvented himself as a talk-show host, with a new self-titled weekday program, shown in the Philippines on Talk TV. We caught the show’s first telecast, so we can give you the real (as opposed to the PR) lowdown on it.
First, despite the presence of Anderson Cooper’s own daily talk show, it’s still a bit unusual for a man to host a “lifestyle” program on TV. Initially, Probst appears to be the wrong man for the job, since he’s a bit gruff, as opposed to the more “sensitive” likes of Anderson.
After a while, though, the awkward or ungainly first impression dissipates, as Probst’s “caring” side comes forth to balance his “macho” projection.
Come to think of it, the new host’s macho appeal may be part of the reason that he was given his own talk show. It makes him quite unique on the tube when he’s contrasted to Anderson, or even to Dr. Phil, whose own daily program is now the most popular daytime talk fest on TV (since the previous front runner, Oprah Winfrey, no longer appears daily on the TV screen).
The logic in favor of Jeff Probst may go this way: The daytime TV audience is dominated by women, so won’t the choice of a hunk as host be “provocatively” appealing to them?
Anderson is all-heart, while Dr. Phil is all-pop psychology, so the field could be wide open for a macho TV host— who can also be caring and comforting when the need arises.
Probst’s new talk show is unique in another way: Each telecast has a unifying factor that stitches its diverse interviews and features together. On its first telecast, for instance, the theme turned out to be: “Say yes to life!”
Each of the day’s featured guests embodied a different aspect of that positive exhortation. First, a cancer victim talked about her refusal to drown in a teary, treacly puddle of self-pity.
Then, a little girl who wanted to help end child labor shared how she sold enough lemonade drinks to raise a really cool $50,000 to achieve her objective!
Finally, a young woman who was left high and dry by the man she loved found the courage, with the show’s help, to call the guy to find out once and for all why he had opted to break up with her.
The day’s theme, and the guests’ active participation in vivifying it, made the program different from some other talk shows out there. Another fresh input was a portion in which women could ask a panel of men to shed light on male behavior that confused or ticked them off.
Due to these innovations, we eventually got over our initial disappointment with Probst due to his less than sterling hosting skills. He may have been short on insight and quotable expressiveness, but he was clearly eager to help viewers learn more about life and living, so we overlooked his deficiencies.
Hmm, it looks like the ex-host of “Survivor” has once again managed to keep his head above water!
It would help, though, if Probst dropped his tendency to “telegraph” his moves and explain away everything that he wanted his show to do, and be. On his show’s first telecast, this resulted in a rather predictable progression, and too few surprises. It would be better if he kept some aces up his sleeve, to better fascinate viewers and make them wonder what could be coming next.
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