Jeff Probst “likes to figure out on his own what’s going on,” Mark Burnett says

As usual, the New York Times bats cleanup on a trend: this time, commenting on Jeff Probst’s evolution into the best reality host on television. While Anderson Cooper held that post during Survivor‘s early years, when Jeff was just finding his way, he’s now the clear leader.

Back then, the Times’ Claire Dederer points out, Jeff “was eager and freckly. He buddied up to the contestants. He smiled constantly. His voice was softer than it is now. Tribal council seemed actively to pain him. He wore shorts.” But eventually, Jeff “became what he is now: a methodical, meticulous interviewer, more police investigator than talk-show host.” And, most significantly, as a fan of the show, “he’s simultaneously haughty and fascinated.”

While the paper doesn’t ask Jeff about his job, it does talk to producer Mark Burnett, who says that Jeff’s Tribal Council interrogations usually aren’t based upon advance knowledge of what’s happened back in camp. “Jeff gets some information about what’s going on, but he doesn’t need to know much. He likes to figure out on his own what’s going on. Some tribal councils might last one-and-a-half to two hours while Jeff gets the talk to where he wants it to be. Jeff is very interested in people and things, and that comes across,” he said.

A Survivor Figures Out What to Do With Himself [New York Times]