New 'Survivor' deal an "easy decision" for Jeff Probst this time around
By Christopher Rocchio, 01/30/2008
If Survivor host Jeff Probst's recent contract extension negotiations seemed to go a lot quieter than his talks from two years ago, there's a good reason.
"The truth [is that] part of that [was] it was time to renegotiate a contract," Probst told reporters during a Tuesday conference call. "I'd had a contract for a long time. It was the same one I signed early on. I wanted a different contract, and I was willing to consider leaving if we couldn't come to terms. That's the honest truth."
CBS announced on Wednesday that -- in addition to ordering two more editions of Survivor for broadcast during the 2008-2009 season -- Probst signed a new agreement to continue to helm the hit reality series.
According to a CBS publicist, the new deal ensures Probst will remain with Survivor through the show's twentieth season, assuming the show eventually receives another two-edition renewal for the 2009-2010 season.
"All you have to really do is step inside my shoes for a single moment and you'd understand why I'm still on Survivor -- I travel the world; I get to host and produce one of the most fascinating shows on television; and I get paid more money than any college dropout should ever dream of making," Probst told reporters. "And when I'm not working? I have a lot of free time to think about what a great life I have. So for me, it was an easy decision."
Back in Fall 2005 when Probst' previous contract was set to expire following the show's Spring 2006 installment, it wasn't such an easy decision to come back.
"I had reached a point where it was hard for me to be gone -- physically gone from my life," he explained on Wednesday. "It was just -- emotionally -- I was finding it unsettling. I kind of had a period where I really wanted to be home more. I spent a lot of time thinking about how I could readjust my life to be more comfortable with that, and I started reminding myself of all the incredibly gifts that Survivor affords me -- like the house I'm sitting in right now. I kind of had an attitude adjustment."
"I think the reason that Survivor's still on the air and why it's endured is great storytelling," Probst explained. "I've always felt that Survivor is Joseph Campbell at its best. It's unscripted, real-life drama. Everybody in this game is on their own journey, and they leave their ordinary life behind and they embark on this adventure that will forever change their lives."
Probst said whether castaways have the dubious distinction of being the first one booted or make it all the way to the final Tribal Council, "their lives are forever changed" by the experience.
"They face obstacles. They almost always experience a spiritual death -- whether it's literally being voted out, which is a death in this game -- or whether it's finding yourself so low you don't know how you're ever going to make it," he said. "You think about quitting, and then you dig deep and you rebirth and you're a renewed person."
The Survivor frontman knew that must sound "really corny," but added it isn't if you're in his position.
"I don't think it is," he continued. "I sit out there and watch these people cry and cry and cry, and say, 'I think I've got to go home and can't do it.' Then someone comes up and says, 'Just hang in there another day.' Before you know it, they're kicking ass on Day 35 and they've got a shot at $1 million. That is a death and a rebirth and your life is forever changed."
In addition to being unsure when he'll eventually end up hanging up his Survivor hat for good, he also doesn't know when viewers will finally be able to see it in HDTV format.
"They're still debating about HD and the cost," he said. "I think everybody wants us to do it, it's just a matter of CBS saying we're going to do it and here's the extra money. I'm not sure. I can tell you personally, I don't mind if we don't shoot in HD for a while. I've seen what I look like in HD -- not too flattering."
After eight years on the air, Probst said he still gets people on the street who tell him they never miss an episode of Survivor, and he thinks he knows why.
"We stay true to our show. We don't change," he said. "Somebody asked, 'What's the difference between a legitimate twist and a cheesy twist,' and I said, 'It's perception' -- and it is. We could have taken a lot of different roads, and every season we come back and we say, 'Let's adjust the creative a little bit, but let's do the same show we always do, just a little different.' Because that's what you expect. You hear the music, you see the open, and you remember, 'Oh yeah! I'm in good hands.'"