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The Emmys don’t ‘hate Jeff Probst’—please! But they do have a problem.

The Emmys don’t ‘hate Jeff Probst’—please! But they do have a problem.
Jeff Probst hosts the live Survivor Game Changers reunion on May 24, 2017. (Photo by Monty Brinton/CBS)

Today, Entertainment Weekly’s Dalton Ross published a piece titled Why do the Emmys hate Jeff Probst?

His argument is summarized in the subhead: “The Survivor host is the best in the business but hasn’t even been nominated in 12 years.”

Okay, I’ve stopped laughing enough to be able to type. “the best in the business”? Is this still 2001?

Dalton argues that Probst is deserving for reasons including: “his probing questions and ability to delve deeper”; working “without any notes, teleprompter, or earpiece”; and “His ability to narrate the action during a challenge in real time.”

Even Jeff Probst himself knows his challenge narration sucks, he just won’t stop doing it.

RuPaul Charles with his seventh consecutive Emmy for reality TV competition show host
RuPaul Charles with his seventh consecutive Emmy for reality TV competition show host. (Photo by Invision-AP/Television Academy)

I grimaced the most when I got to the part noting that Probst is particularly deserving because he’s an older white man: “While the host was still in his 30s when Survivor began, he’s now doing all of this at the age of 61 and has never seemed more enthused, attacking challenges with a gusto rarely found in someone half his age.”

Not mentioned in the EW piece is the most-recent actual Emmy winner in the category: RuPaul Charles, age 62.

For a white middle-aged straight guy to argue for another white middle-age straight guy is “hated” by Hollywood while the person who’s been winning is a Black gay man? That’s an unfortunate choice.

So is ignoring people like Padma Lakshmi, Phil Keoghan, or Nicole Byer, longtime hosts who’ve also been snubbed.

By the way, I’m not sure Probst himself is pining for another nomination. In 2012, Probst said, “I’m so grateful for the love I’ve received from the Emmys. I didn’t feel snubbed at all. It’s never a certainty to be nominated—there are lots of factors involved. And this is the genuine truth: I’m happy for those who are nominated because it’s a blast to go, and it’s really fun to win.”

Jeff Probst did win the first reality host Emmy, and deserved it, as he was the best host at the time. In an column in 2008, I wrote:

… I think “Survivor” host Jeff Probst deserves to win the first reality TV host Emmy. He was the first modern reality show host and set the standard for everyone else who followed. And since the summer of 2000, he’s grown into his role, presiding over “Survivor” in a way that makes him seem like both a viewer (he asks the questions we’re thinking) and an objective third party.

Then he won three more consecutive Emmys. The Emmys don’t hate people they give four Emmys to.

In the time since then, well, Probst has lost the plot, as host and showrunner.

My recaps of his podcast episodes are a good way to get an overview of how Probst views Survivor today, and how that guides his decisions. That transparency and honestly is great; the hosting and producing, not so much.

Let’s also not forget that, as host (and showrunner, i.e. the person in charge), Jeff Probst presided over a show that had repeated incidents of unwanted touching and harassment—and seven months after it happened, Probst still acted clueless.

Jeff Probst has players draw rocks at the reward challenge, because why just let people compete in a challenge?
Jeff Probst has players draw rocks at the reward challenge, because why just let people compete in a challenge? (Photo by Robert Voets/CBS Entertainment)

As much as I stand by that argument for the first Emmy, after his next three wins, I thought it was time for someone else to win, considering the range of talent and hosting that’s out there.

I also realize that’s not how Emmys work, especially for unscripted categories. There’s a kind of momentum where a person who’s nominated may keep getting nominated even though the work wasn’t as strong.

Let’s imagine a world where the reality TV show hosts are nominated for Emmys based solely on how they contribute to a series on-screen.

Here are some people who have been nominated one or more times, yet have not won four times, they’ve won zero times. In alphabetical order by last name:

  • Anthony Bourdain
  • Nicole Byer
  • Kat Deeley
  • Phil Keoghan
  • Padma Lakshmi
  • Ryan Seacrest

Padma was particularly screwed because, when Top Chef won its Emmy in 2010, she was not yet an executive producer, which meant Tom Collichio and Andy Cohen, who were EPs, have Emmys for Top Chef and Padma does not.

Also, when Padma was first nominated in 2009, she was nominated alongside Tom, as she was again in 2020. Gail Simmons was added to the mix for the 2021 nominations, while Padma was finally nominated as solo host in 2022. Maybe that’ll be rectified this year, after Padma’s final season as Top Chef host. I hope so.

A person standing with her hands clasped in front of her
Padma Lakshmi introduces Top Chef 20 World All Stars (Photo by David Moir/Bravo)

Later in his piece, Dalton Ross offers a few paragraphs of critiques of other nominees that I agree with. Those include Betty White (adore her, but for Off Their Rockers?), James Corden (for this shit show), and the sharks on Shark Tank (who are not hosts, sorry).

I don’t agree with including Alec Baldwin and Jane Lynch in that list, though, because they both did excellent jobs on their respective shows, Match Game and Hollywood Game Night. Sure, a studio competition that films its entire season in days isn’t the same kind of work as a 26-day series filmed in Fiji.

But looking at this group, what’s clear is that they’re all famous people outside of reality TV. The Television Academy keeps nominating celebrity hosts, as you can see just scrolling through the list of past nominees.

I think Dalton is missing the bigger picture here: Celebrities are getting nominated and sometimes winning even when there are much-better hosts out there.

I certainly think Nicole Byer deserved to win the four years she was nominated for Nailed It!; W. Kamau Bell should have won the two years he was nominated for United Shades of America. They did get nominations, but perhaps weren’t famous enough to win.

In the same way I was ready for someone other than Probst to win after his streak, I do actually think it’s time for someone other than RuPaul to win now that Ru’s won seven consecutive awards.

That’s because I get bored with the same thing again and again, and because there are so many others who are deserving of recognition.

Also, for all Ru did to bring drag into the mainstream, the hosting part of his job on Drag Race mostly consists of reading off a teleprompter, unless he has to interrupt his break to scream at the queens, so maybe it’s time to recognize someone who has a different skillset.

The reality hosts eligible to be nominated for Emmys

The Circle host Michelle Buteau
The Circle host Michelle Buteau (Photo by Mitch Jenkins/Netflix)

Take a look at the list of the 67 reality hosts who can be nominated for Emmys this year, some of which would be one nomination for co-hosts, i.e. the Queer Eye guys.

The options include The Boulet Brothers, the trio from The Gentle Art Of Swedish Death Cleaning, Phil Keoghan (twice), Alex Wagner, Michelle Buteau, and Ted Allen.

So many of the hosts, though, are pre-reality TV celebrity names, from Jason Momoa to Wanda Sykes (for a clip show featuring videos from that abomination Ring).

Because celebrity seems to be a key factor in getting someone a nomination, I would not be surprised to see Dan Levy for The Big Brunch (a charming show!) or Alan Cumming for The Traitors (an exceptional show made even better by his host character) end up as nominees. They’d both be deserving; the way Alan pronounces “murder” deserves its own award.

What happened to the days of finding a Padma Lakshmi, a Phil Keoghan, or a Jeff Probst, people who were not household names when they started their runs?

I wish Eric Adjepong was on that list for Alex vs. America, or Kristen Kish for Restaurants at the End of the World (though she is on the ballot for co-hosting the new Iron Chef), or Claudia Winkleman for The Traitors UK, or Tone Bell for Drink Masters. They’re not even on the ballot, though.

I will join hands with Dalton Ross and anyone else to protest the shift to celebrity host—and celebrity host recognition—and/or to celebrate and highlight the lesser-known but incredible hosts. But to argue for Probst to get another Emmy? No thanks.

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Saturday 24th of June 2023

To be fair given that they keep giving it to Ru Paul I think even the Chenbot would deserve to feel a little aggrieved.

Great personality yes. Great presenter - far from it.


Thursday 22nd of June 2023

I'd love to see Padma win this year; she deserves it.

Or Phil Keoghan, or definitely Alan Cumming!

And after looking at the list you linked to, Murray Hill!!! I've never heard of or seen Drag Me to Dinner, but I LOVE him on Somebody Somewhere.


Friday 23rd of June 2023

@Melissa, BTW, do you know why EW disabled their comments? It was my second favorite place for Survivor discussion.


Thursday 22nd of June 2023

I would not hate it if Alan Cumming won for The Traitors. I've never seen so much scenery chewing by a reality competition host.

But I would love for Phil to win for Tough as Nails.

Michael Harmstone

Thursday 22nd of June 2023

Alex wouldn't deserve a nomination for Mole - they barely used her.

Jane McG

Thursday 22nd of June 2023

Kat Deeley is the most egregious oversight on this list IMO. What she did during the golden era of SYTYCD!!!!!!!