When “The Jeff Probst Show” debuts in September, it will be in a very crowded field of chatterboxes. In addition to Probst, Katie Couric, Ricki Lake and Steve Harvey are also launching daytime talk shows this fall.
The “Survivor” host turned talk-show host has a good shot at standing out, after a convincing discussion with TV critics Sunday in Beverly Hills.
“If you’re looking for Jerry [Springer] or Maury [Povich], this show isn’t for you,” Probst explains. “I’m not interested in fighting and paternity tests.”
The happy newlywed is much more about optimism than conflict and seems genuinely excited about his new show.
“We’re also not a celebrity-driven show,” Probst adds, although he’s not opposed to having celebs on the show, just not to promote their next movies.
A show without conflict or celebrities sounds like a recipe for daytime disaster, but Probst insists he won’t be a ratings-chaser and “If we build this show correctly, they will come.”
He’s certainly making it enticing for the viewers who come in person. His talk show will feature a “party room” to pamper guests, where audience members can get massages, have their hair and make-up done, eat some snacks, play in a photo booth, and stay connected with a laptops station. Probst says the idea was inspired by Jimmy Kimmel’s tricked-out green room.
The move from reality TV to daytime TV should be an easy transition for Probst, since everybody’s favorite torch-snuffer is actually a very good interviewer, as anyone who’s watched the live “Survivor” reunion specials can attest.
Probst’s greatest skill as an interviewer is his disciplined ear: “I really listen,” Probst says. “I’m absolutely fascinated with people.”
He also can produce “on the fly,” which impresses his executive producer Amy Coleman. “And he has the guts to ask what we want to know,” she adds. “That’s going to be really refreshing about our show.”
However, Probst says, “I would never ask a guest a question that I wouldn’t be prepared to answer myself.”
With TV observers still waiting to see who will become “The Next Oprah,” Probst gave a nod to two of daytime’s most definitive talk-show role models, Oprah Winfrey and Phil Donahue.
“Oprah put the biggest stamp on daytime more than anyone ever will. She’s earned her place,” Probst says. “But Phil was the first one that really broke it open.”
His biggest talk inspiration, however, might come as a bit of a surprise.
“To be completely candid, the interviewing of Howard Stern is so under-appreciated,” Probst says. “His ability as an interviewer is something I’ve studied for years, and he’s one of the best who’s ever done it.”
As for getting his training wheels for this new venture, Probst acknowledged that “I owe the biggest thank you” to Kelly Ripa and Regis Philbin, for letting him guest host “Live!” so often. “It allowed me to practice and play and get comfortable with host chat.”
“The Jeff Probst Show” premieres in syndication on Monday, Sept. 10.