Dispatches From The Couch: Best. SURVIVOR. Ever?

survivor cast

It’s no secret that the networks love to run ads that make what turns out to be molehills look like mountains in an effort to get viewers to tune in. And certainly, SURVIVOR has been guilty of this trick in the past. But if anything, ads for the grandpappy of reality shows underplayed the dramatic twists which unfolded during Brandon’s rice-spilling, chair-tossing, name-calling, truth-telling meltdown on last night’s episode.

As events unfolded, it became clear why SURVIVOR is so successful at what it does, and why Jeff Probst may be the best reality show host in television history. He beautifully mediates and manages the situation without every really manipulating it. He recognizes the value of drama, and oversees it all with a keen knowledge of not only what will make for great television but the actual needs of the contestants. As things grew heated before the eventually-forfeited immunity challenge, Probst wisely removed Brandon from the situation — without putting a damper on the unfolding drama — by suggesting the seething young man step away from his tribe.

Probst controlled the situation like a master, putting a calming hand on Brandon’s shoulder, preventing the clearly unstable young man from getting physical with his nemesis, Phillip. And as it became clear that the situation was heading toward an inevitable conclusion, Probst threw protocol to the wind with an impulsive vote that saw Brandon becoming the latest person voted off the island. 

Imagine — go ahead, just try — BIG BROTHER’s comically bad hostess, Julie Chen, in the same scenario.

Despite it’s wildly formulaic infrastructure, complete with Probst spitting out lines the audience knows by heart (“Wanna know what you’re playing for?” “Immunity is now up for grabs!” etc), the beating, unpredictable heart of SURVIVOR lies in the players themselves. And that might well be what makes SURVIVOR the best reality show on television.

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  • Devin McMusters

    Well, Probst is a producer for the show also, so he can make calls like that spontaneously.
    His kneading of Brandon’s shoulders was kinda creepy though.

  • Best? How about worst?

    CBS, Survivor and Probst exploited a contestant who everyone knew had emotional issues (based on his past season). It was repugnant and I’m shocked that anyone took pleasure in watching that.