I hate Jeff Probst.
Okay, maybe I'm exaggerating, but Probst can be a pain in the ass. He hosts the longtime reality hit Survivor, entering its twentieth season this week with the premiere of Heroes Vs. Villains. Probst manages to affect gameplay and maintain open crushes on any alpha male that comes on the show. And despite all that, he's managed to snag two Emmys for his hosting skills. He might be considered the first host of the modern reality era, but he's far from the best as far as I'm concerned.
In the latest issue of Entertainment Weekly, he ranks all nineteen seasons. As you might guess, I have disagreements with his selections. I'll go over what he said, and determine if the season should be rated higher, lower, or stay the same.
Probst didn't like it then, he doesn't like it now, and he points out nobody from this season made HvV. It's not that this season wasn't memorable, but that the memories were ugly for the most part . . . like "Grindgate" between Ted and Ghandia, Robb choking the crap out of Clay during gameplay, and the non-merge that burned Shii Ann, enabling her to get a spot on All-Stars for getting screwed (a rule that got applied for John Vito and Jill for the all-star edition of The Amazing Race after they got burned on consecutive non-elimination legs). Brian was a bit of a mastermind, but between his skeevy past in porn, a flavorless Pagonging, and a 4-3 win over old perv Clay that should've been bigger, Thailand deserves the ranking. STAY
Probst: "It was our fault. We take the blame, but this was just a snoozer." Translation: "I had to deal with three icky women and an old man at the end! How else am I supposed to react?!?" He gives love to Boston Rob and Gina (for making the necklace he wore in Samoa), and that's it. It must have slipped his mind to remember the slaughter the Rotu tribe inflicted on Maaramu, the random shuffling that made Rotu even stronger, and a Rotu foursome that got Pagonged because they didn't realize an opposing troika (Neleh, Kathy and Paschal) and duo (Vecepia & Sean) could join forces to take them out. It probably belongs in the second half on the list, but it doesn't deserve to be next-to-last. HIGHER
Probst would have put this at the bottom if not for wily old Yau-Man and scatterbrained and formerly homeless Dreamz. "No offense, Earl," Probst says to the winner, "but as nice a guy as you are in real life, the charisma didn't carry on screen." Apparently, ol' Jeff can fit his entire head up his ass. While Earl wasn't as cute and cuddly as Yau-Man, he did shine through on screen, especially with his lack of pissiness at being on Exile Island, a place where he contemplated setting up hotels. Besides, after Dreamz reneged on an immunity-for-car deal and Yau-Man got voted off, Earl cruised to an unanimous win over Dreamz and Cassandra, a Survivor first. HIGHER
Probst: "No. 16. Why not?" And that's it. This wasn't as fun as the season before it -- Palau -- even with Stephanie and Bobby Jon coming back for their second straight season playing the game. While Steph turned into a bit of a bitch, Bobby Jon was still the wacky good ol' boy we knew and loved the first time, especially with his feud with fellow Alabaman Jamie, to the point where they almost came to blows. Also funny: former quarterback Gary Hogeboom trying to pass himself off as somebody else, which may have worked if one of the other players -- eventual champ Danni -- wasn't a sports DJ. Gary also played the first-ever hidden idol, which got Bobby Jon's torch snuffed, making it the second time he got booted without officially getting voted off. In response to Probst's four words, I have but one: "Not." HIGHER
Probst acknowledges champion Chris for getting the women to turn on each other. He does leave out runner-up Twila -- who should have been an all-star -- cluing him in on strategy. The men vs. women start makes this a bit of a forgettable season. LOWER
Probst gives props to Bob and his fake immunity idol. Given the stuff I've read in forums, Probst would be in the minority; some people hated Bob winning. He also brings up the feud because Randy and Sugar, which might spill into HvV, and yet he forgets about two other knuckle-draggers: recently disgraced track & field "star" Crystal, who underachieved in most of the challenges; and nasty bitch Corrine, who laced into Sugar so badly, Sugar had no choice but to flip the bird. STAY
13. Panama: Exile Island
Here, Probst uses most of the paragraph to gush about Cirie, who will be making her third visit on HvV. He also mentions that if there was another Villian spot, it would've gone to the tobacco-deprived nutjob Shane. This was a bit of a fun season, though the younger/older gender spilt in the beginning was a bit silly. Even with Aras winning, I reckon this could go up a few notches. HIGHER
Apparently, this season has stood the test of time for Probst, as he mentions Ethan ("Mr. Grassroots Soccer"), Lex and "Big Tom." While the legacy of this season was tarnished by All-Stars (Ethan voted out early, Lex getting punked by Rob, Tom looking like a moron in general), I think given the initial tribal twist and the lack of memorable players (hey, it's been over eight years), this one deserves to remain in the twelfth slot. STAY
Coach, Coach, Coach . . . oh, and Tyson and J.T. That's all Probst talks about in reference to the latest season. J.T. gets points for getting the first unanimous win without getting a vote cast against him, and Taj also proved memorable, but the rest of the season? Not so much. LOWER
10. The Amazon
Natch, Probst brings up Jenna and Heidi (voluntarily) getting naked for chocolate and peanut butter. He doesn't bring up Rob Cesternino, who's one of the best players never to have won. This was the first "men against women" season, and it did give us a nice cast of characters . . . but since Jenna won, I think tenth is good enough a position. STAY
9. Cook Islands
Probst brings up the racial division that happened for the first two episodes of the season, something he would've kept a little longer. He also brings up the Yul/Ozzy/Sundra/Becky quartet that managed to hang in there. Throw in Jonathan Penner and (*sigh*) Parvati, and you have a solid season. I'm running a March Madness-style tournament on Television Without Pity right now, and Yul looks to be the odds-on to win, so it's apparent this season is a keeper. HIGHER
8. The Australian Outback
Probst points out Jerri ("the original 'black widow'"), Colby ("the prototype for a Survivor hero) and Elisabeth, whose current right-wing politics have made her less popular these days than . . . well, Jerri. He also brings up Colby's attempt to be a good guy and a winner as "the single biggest blunder in Survivor. What . . . Erik willingly giving up immunity wasn't bad enough? I think Jeff still mourns his mancrush's loss. This one played out like the first-ever season, through the Pagonging was slowed to include tossing out Jerri and a then-unmemorable Amber. Throw in Alicia going "I will always wave my finger in your face!" to Kimmi, and Michael burning his hands in the fire, and you have a season that deserves to go up a notch or two. HIGHER
Can you say "clusterfuck"? Probst won't, though he kids about suffering "post-traumatic reality disorder." Between Jenna Morasca bailing to be with her dying mother (as opposed to not coming on the show to begin with, the Chapera tribe celebrating Sue Hawk quitting by singing "Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead" after she was traumatized by Richard grinding on her, Rob having his way with the cast, and Amber riding his back for a million bucks that she shouldn't have been playing for to beging with, and you have a dud of a season you can't cover up with the "Ramber" romance. Also, Rob & Amber wound up on The Amazing Race twice, so this was a dud of a season that almost ruined another show in its wake. LOWER
Really, Probst? Even with mancrush James in the mix, we also had to deal with Amanda. There's nothing wrong with her, but she went into Day 39 the odds-on favorite to win, and went out with third place and no words supporting her. Call President Obama, we got another clunker to sell. LOWER
5. Pearl Islands
Okay, so this one is really memorable, what with the two man-children in the game (Rupert and Jon Dalton, the latter's nom de famewhore I will not be using), the first quitter (Osten) and a sassy, under-the-radar winner (Sandra). However, Probst hated the Outcast twist that went with the pirate theme, which allowed two players whose torches were snuffed back into the game. "We blew it," he laments. "The cub Scout leader [Lillian] should have never been in the final." But the idea of both tribes having to face their cast-offs, with "Skinny" Ryan Shoulders wearing a "Die Jerks" buff on his head? Priceless. Even though Rupert was ultimately proven overrated and a bit of a jagoff, and Jon was a fame-grubbing asshole (what with the dead granny prank), this wound up being a good season. STAY
All Jeff mentions is the final immunity challenge, with Tom and Ian clinging onto buoys for 13 hours, and that Tom "went on to become one of our greatest winners." While Tom destroying the field is pretty noteworthy (won all tribal immunity challenges he competed in, won all but two immunity challenges, didn't receive a vote against him, beat Katie 6-1 in the final tribal council), you also have to look at the mighty Koror tribe, led by Tom and dolphin trainer Ian, backed by Caryn, Gregg, Katie, Coby and Jenn (who passed on earlier this year). And there was the decimated Ulong tribe, a tribe so hapless, the top two players -- Stephenie and Bobby Jon -- were given a another chance on Guatemala. Such an imbalance between tribes shouldn't be fun to watch for non-sadists, and yet it was. HIGHER
Probst: "Go ahead and start screaming, but this is my list, so bug off." Here's the thing: if you remove Russell, you wind up with some of the dumbest players scrambling for a win. Galu had a 7-5 advantage heading into the merge (8-4 if you keep Shambo from jumping ship), and they got shot down one after the other. Once Probst reaches the 25th season, he'll realize that he inflated the position and adjust it accordingly, even with Russell's antics. LOWER
2. Micronesia: Fans Vs. Favorites
Probst gives credit to the "Parvati-led" alliance for some of the more memorable blindsides, like the stripping of Erik's immunity idol and nailing Ozzy when he had a hidden idol. I reckon it was more of a partnership between Parvati, Amanda, Cirie and "fan" Natalie. Here's the problem: the fans didn't really act like fans, in the sense that they didn't know how to play the game (Joel displaying the grace of a bull in a china shop), didn't know the hardships involved (Kathy winds up quitting), and didn't think to put on weight going into the season (Chet looking like Jon's malnourished twin, "Jonny Feedme"). Throw in winner Parvati being cast as a "favorite" to begin with and another Amanda meltdown at the final Tribal Council, and you have proof that "all star" seasons of reality shows on CBS just don't work. LOWER
Like I'm gonna dispute this? Richard Hatch's machinations, Sue Hawk's "rats and snakes" speech, Rudy doddering into fans' hearts, doofy doctor Sean and his "Superpole" (not an euphemism), the first Pagonging, and a snarky host presiding over things? Survivor may go on for ten more years, and it'll never hit the heights of the first season. STAY
Finally, I should make a prediction for Heroes Vs. Villains. Like I said, "all star" seasons don't work. Between Amber, Parvati, "Mike Boogie" from Big Brother and Eric & Danielle from The Amazing Race, it's natural to go into HvV to be a pain in the ass. As much as I would want Tom to raze the Samoan landscape like he did in Palau, I reckon he'll get brought down early because he's not in the alumni loop. You have to look beyond the odds-on favorites and those that are "due" (Rob, Rupert, Steph). You need to look for somebody who doesn't belong, who may qualify as a "hero" or "villain," but not an "all-star." My pick? Tyson Apostol from Tocantins. He was Coach's "assistant coach" and just a skeezy guy in general. So it's not going to be a shock to see him get the win, and for diehard fans to reach for the booze as a result.