Jeff Probst: Survivor returnee was cast because of Twitter, which has “a direct impact”

Jeff Probst said today that Survivor South Pacific‘s casting twist happened because of a poll on Twitter, and that seems to be a reference to the somewhat random casting of Ozzy Lusth, who returns along with Ben “Coach” Wade for the season that recently concluded taping and will debut in September.

Talking to TV critics, Jeff said, according to Inside Reel, “Twitter allowed me to back in control of what I say and not go through a publicist or network. We’re doing a casting twist that was done by an informal twitter poll. The response was so fast and so clear to what they [the fans] like. It is a direct impact to how we are producing the show.”

If he is referring to Ozzy and not someone or something else (like this rumor)–and a search through Jeff’s timeline finds that’s the only recent tweet that applies here–that would be “kind of silly,” as True Dork Times’ Jeff Pittman wrote. That’s because it seems to refer to a tweet from late March, when someone asked Jeff Probst on Twitter if Ozzy would be back, and Probst wrote, “Ozzy? Really? Who would like to see him again?”

It’s unclear who replied to that, as Twitter’s page for that tweet shows no replies, only seven retweets of the question. Still, Jeff seems to be giving a bit too much credit to Twitter. How many people out of the show’s 12 million or so viewers would have needed to replied in the affirmative to convince Probst and company that bringing back Ozzy was a good idea? A majority? There’s no way even half of Probst’s Twitter followers even responded to his tweet, never responded that yes, Ozzy should return. So this isn’t exactly a way to discover consensus.

Not that Twitter should be a way to have “a direct impact” on the way the show is produced. Because he’s so prolific on Twitter (sometimes pointlessly so) and writes about a show that has a lot of investment from fans, Jeff is clearly aware that there are always people who will love or hate the very same thing. Also, Jeff wrote in March, “complainers typically have a bigger voice than those who enjoy something,” and suggested he wouldn’t listen to suggestions: “If I listened to complainers, Idols would be gone!”

Exactly. And that’s why this is a dubious claim. Yes, there are certainly a lot of assholes on Twitter who are vocal about, say, having returnees again. And anyone who produces something for public consumption should absolutely pay attention to thoughtful, well-argued criticism and compliments. But they also shouldn’t let any idiot who drunkenly types barely literate words into a box on the Internet have a meaningful impact.

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.