Probst is the real Survivor

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Survivor’s Jeff Probst has re-signed as the show’s host and executive producer through the 21st and 22nd installments, taking him through one more year, CBS said today (Tuesday, Feb. 9).

In the past, Probst has made a longer commitment to the show, agreeing to four more cycles over two years, according to Entertainment Weekly. Don’t read too much into that, Probst tells the magazine: “I’m not approaching this as my last year of Survivor,” Probst told EW’s Dalton Ross. “I was just comfortable taking it one year at a time. It certainly made it easier for me to just commit to one year and then we can revisit it again next year if everybody wants to.”

On the other hand, Survivor is heading into its 20th edition with Heroes vs. Villains starting this Thursday, Feb. 11. Just getting past season one was a huge feat for CBS’ reality-show granddaddy. As the well-known network lore goes, all the networks passed at least twice before CBS finally bit the bullet and picked the show up. The fact that it’s remained on and strong for a decade is nothing short of amazing in today’s fickle TV world.

Still, Probst is a realist: ten years is long run, and who knows if he or CBS will still want to be doing the show come 2012.

But here’s where I think Probst is wrong: he says Survivor could survive without him: “I have always said that my belief is that the star of Survivor is Survivor: It is the format. So yes, if there came a point where I decided I was leaving Survivor, I absolutely believe someone else could take over.”

I doubt it. Probst is one of the people who lives his work. He’s not just a host who shows up to work, reads his lines and walks away. He plays the game alongside the contestants, he analyzes their moves, he deduces their strategies. Talking to the articulate Probst about Survivor makes you (me) suddenly interested in watching it again. (Can you tell I just did a story about Survivor and had a lovely chat with Probst for it?)

“Jeff is an amazing creative talent and an integral part of the Survivor team—both on camera and, equally as important, as a producer,” says Executive Producer Mark Burnett.  “For 20 seasons, he has earned the trust of the audience and the respect of Survivor’s castaways.”

“Jeff is a multi-faceted creative talent,” said Nina Tassler, President, CBS Entertainment.  “On the screen he’s a gifted and versatile host, and behind-the-scenes he’s a smart and intuitive producer.