Although Jeff Probst is currently in Samoa filming Survivor South Pacific (which started production yesterday) and hasn’t tweeted in half a month, he has apparently responded to an open letter posted on Survivor Sucks that details complaints many viewers have about the CBS reality series, from its increasing reliance on returning cast members to the Redemption Island twist.
The well-written open letter was posted by beatles20147 and lacks the vitriol that is sometimes present in Sucks threads. It argues that “CBS, Jeff Probst and the producers of Survivor are so out of touch with what fans want out of this show that I have to assume that they are deliberately trying to kill it off” because “Survivor has strayed so far from its roots that it’s entirely unrecognizable from the phenomenon that transfixed us for a decade.” Its detailed complaints include bringing players back every season and duplicating Nicaragua’s structure again for season 23.
Most convincingly, it quoted Probst from 2005, when he said bringing voted players back into the game “went against everything we say the show is about — that if you are voted out, you are out of the game.” Back then, Jeff also said, “I would hope we never do All-Stars again, because Survivor is a game about strangers living together. Once they have had that experience and have spent time together socially, it’s a completely different game. It’s stunt casting.”
In a reply titled “My first response to Survivor Sucks… it only took 12 years” posted early this morning, someone named “JeffProbst” claiming to be Jeff Probst who writes exactly like Jeff Probst wrote, “I actually enjoy criticism of the show and I welcome suggestions on how to improve the show and a lot of you are very good writers. But this site reached a point where it was so negative, so sarcastic and so cynical that it was hard to separate the worthy criticism from the full-on haters.” There’s a lot of commentary on Survivor Sucks itself: “I am confused as to the purpose of this site. It still eludes me why anyone who appears to hate Survivor as much as some of you do, would dedicate the hours it takes to post a response.”
While Jeff ignores the disparity in his 2005 versus 2011 arguments and also doesn’t discuss bringing back players season after season beyond a reference to Russell Hantz hatred, he addresses some of the original post’s complaints, discussing final two versus three, repeating his comments about repeating locations, and defending Redemption Island. As to the latter, he calls it “a twist worth exploring” that “we’re trying it again in S23 and we may try it again in S24. We may do it for the rest of the series and we may never do it again.” Jeff also writes, “I don’t disagree with any of the cons you mentioned and I’ve never said that any of the pros are earth shattering. It’s just a twist.”
Jeff also responds to the charge that producers don’t care what fans think. “We listen to feedback all the time. We solicit it and it comes to us.” He also discusses his EW blogging, tweeting, and his new web site, which he said cost $20,000 (he really, really overpaid!), which are all ways for him to interact with fans. And he repeatedly complains about the disparity in complaints, both to his tweeting and blogging.
As awesome as it is that Jeff is accessible and took the time to respond, and as much as I appreciate that he’s willing to engage with critics, it’s an unwinnable proposition to imagine that there will ever be a time when he’s going to get consistent feedback from viewers. What one person loves, another will hate, and after a while, you just have to realize that the disparity and disagreement is the best evidence that he and the show’s other producers are still doing their jobs well.
Or they will be, once they stop bringing back has-been players and bring back individual reward and immunity challenges that live up to the bar Survivor established over the past decade.