Last week I went down a rabbit hole of trying to cast a season based on players who lost at Final Tribal Council so today I’m dialing it back a smidge and posing a question that sooner rather than later the show is going to have to deal with. Who, if anybody, is going to eventually replace Jeff Probst when he decides to hang it up?
Now I’m in what I believe is the majority of the fan base when I say that Jeff Probst deserves to be in consideration for greatest game show host of all time. And as far as reality competition shows he’s in a league of his own above TJ Lavin, that guy from The Amazing Race, and a former President. Early on in the show’s run Jeff always did a great job of never letting himself become part of the narrative of the show. He’s always asked great questions at Tribal, was never afraid to shit talk a player during challenges, and he did so with a sense of humor. As the show went on and he became more involved in the production rather than just hosting there was a definite shift in the kind of show we were seeing. He’s always been infatuated by player story arcs and its helped bring out some of the game’s most memorable characters. But at some point the show made a conscious decision to almost completely ignore camp life, add twist after twist, and put an emphasis on casting players with some sort of a sob story.
I’m not saying this is a bad thing but ever since maybe Millennials vs. Gen X when Adam Klein was delivering water works weekly while playing one of the greatest games ever played Jeff saw this and decided that every character needs to have a story like Adam. Or maybe it was when Cirie had to boot scoot her way over a balance beam in Game Changers and Jeff treated her like she just threw a perfect game in the World Series. Whatever it was, the tone of the show is much more different than it was when Jeff was in his prime. Now there are multiple times a season when the show will try and force a big emotional tear-jerking. Classic example, this past season when Jeff made everyone help Noelle out of a rope course she was tangled in and then being in total shock and awe when nine other people elected to help an amputee as if anyone on that island was trying to keep her in there. Personally I know there are several moments over the past few seasons that he’s tried to escalate only for us to left saying “that’s really not that big a deal.”
But Jeff is 61 years old and there is a lot of time and travel that goes into producing a show like Survivor. I can’t see him going full Bob Barker with his hosting duties but he’s also indicated that he has no intention of slowing down. Is season 50 a realistic timeline to expect him to hang ’em up? Could he make it to age 70? Is he waiting for a full-on mutiny from the cast to put his head on a torch after revealing that the person who comes in third at Final Tribal Council has that chance to turn an hour glass and change the result of the final vote? The latter is probably the most likely outcome but that doesn’t make it any less fun to speculate.
Here are some potential successors for Jeff, some associated with the show and some who aren’t:
Wendell has played Survivor twice, winning on Ghost Island and again appearing on Winners at War. Post-Survivor, Wendell had a brief stint as the host of Hot Mess House, an HGTV home improvement series. As a player, he was a great combination of personality and understanding of the game. He’s currently 38 years old, same as Jeff was when he started hosting, and is still very involved in the Survivor alumni community. He’s played recently enough that younger fans would likely remember him but of course that all depends on how long Jeff wants to host for.
A three-time player and member of the exclusive 100-day club, Andrea has gone on to maintain a solid career in front of the camera. She’s appeared in various roles for outlets like Good Morning America, People, The Design Network, and more. She’s still only 33 and she last appeared on the show in 2016. There may be some younger fans who don’t remember her but those who have been following for a while will remember her as one of the most underrated “new school” players.
While Rick is among the players I’d love to see return more than anyone he’d have to be on CBS’ shortlist of potential hosts the day Jeff decides to walk away. Rick famously had to scrap his way to the Final Four in Edge of Extinction and did so while being one of the more legitimate funny players the show has had in a long time. A local morning TV host by day, Rick has plenty of experience in front of a camera and shares a lot of the personality traits Jeff had early in his tenure.
Perhaps no old school player is as plugged into the modern game than Rob Cesternino. The host of “Rob Has a Podcast” and two-time player is a Survivor content gold mine for those looking for the latest from both new and old school players. He may be a little too into the fan’s side of things but given his reach it’d be hard to imagine he wouldn’t get a call.
Okay this one is a pipe dream but unlike the others here Colby actually has experience hosting a reality game show. The three-time player, and the one almost solely responsible for getting me hooked on the show early, actually hosted five seasons of Top Shot from 2010-2013 on the History Channel. Colby is currently 48 years old and hasn’t played since season 20 so there’s probably a big chunk of the fan base that has never actually seen him play. It’d be hard to imagine the show digging this far into the well but I’d be psyched if he came back.
This is a dark horse pick but if CBS wanted to bring someone in from within their Paramount family it’s hard to ignore the host of what is probably the most similar franchise on TV. Lavin has hosted The Challenge series on MTV since 2005 and very much the face of the channel’s biggest property at this point. Multiple Survivor alumni have appeared on The Challenge so we know he has at least some pull with recent players, including recent winners like Michele Fitzgerald and Tommy Sheehan. At 46 years old there is the question of why he would ever leave such a cushy job but we know he could handle the responsibilities of Survivor and may even be a nice shot of energy into the show. My guess is he would have to get PAID in order to lure him away from MTV.
LaPaglia has hosted Australian Survivor since 2016 so bringing him in to host American Survivor would be as plug and play as they come. There is the whole issue of whether or not he would want to move hemispheres to host the same show but I imagine CBS would pay the man much more than he’s making down under. I also don’t know if he’d be “too similar” to Jeff.
Julie Chen Moonves
The longtime host of Big Brother is another “why would they leave their current gig?” candidate but the network at least knows what they’d be getting with her. Because she’s been with the show for so long I couldn’t see her being pried away, plus it would just cause a hosting carousel at CBS.
This pick is pretty out there but I have my reasons. While he has no affiliation with the Survivor world he does have a long time connection with Paramount via his time at The Daily Show and The Nightly Show With Larry Wilmore. While most of his work in comedy is largely focused on politics I think he could provide a humorous look at some of the social issues the show has been making a greater effort to feature on the show. Wilmore’s a smart guy and currently is hosting a podcast but CBS wants to make a splashy hire they could throw the bag at Wilmore.
Regardless of whoever they bring in, hosting Survivor will be one of the most coveted jobs on TV whenever it opens. But here’s to hoping we won’t need an answer anytime soon.
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