Jeff Probst has been hosting Survivor since its inaugural season back in 2000, and it sounds like he’s on board to keep hosting at least for the next few years — though he’s hesitant to commit to making it to the big 5-0 season.
However, he revealed a few years ago that he quit the show once. Keep reading to find out when and why below.
Survivor: Gabon Was His Breaking Point
When Survivor first debuted, it was a ratings juggernaut. The first few seasons were raking in monster ratings and the post-Super Bowl premiere of season two is still the most-watched Super Bowl lead-out show of the past 20 years by a pretty wide margin — and it’s the second-most-watched Super Bowl lead-out program since they started keeping track of post-Super Bowl ratings, behind only the post-Super Bowl episode of Friends in 1996.
But ratings started to decline around season 14 and Probst took it pretty hard. So after they broadcast season 17, Survivor: Gabon in 2008, which he thought was a season where the show started to drift a bit, he went to then-CBS president Les Moonves and quit the show, according to a New York Times profile.
Probst Was Leery Of Being Known Only as The Survivor Guy
He told the New York Times that when he quit, he was feeling burned out and was getting self-conscious about being known as the Survivor guy.
“My Achilles’ heel for a lot of my life was that nobody saw me as a storyteller, that they saw me as a white guy with dark hair who was just a game show host,” Mr. Probst said. “And that in terms of my own self-image was the thing that could gut me. It was like a kidney punch.”
But Moonves knew better than to let Probst get away, so he told him to take a break. Probst took a few months to recharge and make some changes to the production team. He also reframed the way he looked at the show.
Instead of worrying about getting the ratings back up (which hardly ever happens in TV), they started focusing on what made people love the show to begin with. They focused on the loyal viewers and stopped worrying about anybody else.
And the show’s ratings leveled off. From season 18 to season 25, the ratings stayed fairly steady. There has been another decline from season 26 to season 33, then another from season 24 to season 40, but the last 10 years have also seen the rise of streaming services that let fans watch the show whenever they want, instead of watching it live.
Probst also said he embraced his job because he realized what a gift it was.
“I feel like I’ve been given the greatest gift and no one really realizes it,” he said. “[Producer Mark Burnett] and CBS have given us this great franchise, and they let us go make it. And then we bring them back episodes and they say, ‘Great, go make it again.’”
Probst Has Been Showrunner Since Around Season 20
The article doesn’t mention that Probst was promoted to showrunner shortly after he quit so that probably helped his feelings become more positive about the show. There has been some criticism of the show for making Probst showrunner because he tends to value certain types of players more highly than others. And he also thinks the show needs to keep upping the stakes in terms of twists.
But the show still manages to maintain a lot of its heart from earlier on. The “Winners at War” season was quite fun to watch, save for the fact that old-school players just could not seem to keep up with the newer players.
And it remains to be seen how the show ends up going out — it can’t go on forever. Can it go on if Probst decides to hang it up? We shall see. For right now, fans just want to receive some news that season 41 has started filming.
Survivor hopes to film season 41 in the spring of 2021 for a fall 2021 premiere.