Being a network television show, Survivor has always given a somewhat skewed view on age. Back in the Panama season, you had 32-year old Melinda Hyder on the “older women” tribe. 32!!! But those that pay close attention have noticed that casts of returning player seasons do tend to be a bit older than all-new outings. Obviously, some of that is because those returning players have aged a bit since their first time out, but there is no doubt that the contestants being asked to come back generally, on the whole, tend to be a bit older than your average twentysomething hotties that populate most seasons.
That discrepancy can be found once again with the upcoming Game Changers season (premiering March 8). So we asked Survivor host Jeff Probst why somewhat older contestants — again, this is all relative — tend to be more likely to be brought back to play again, and he not only has a theory, but he also revealed that it plays into his negotiation with the network, CBS, when they have to agree on whom to select. “Honestly, I think because the older players are more seasoned in life,” says Probst about older returning players being more interesting and therefore more likely to be brought back. “And it’s sometimes a battle with the network, because they want youth, and I’m often in the office saying, ‘But, this is a better player. I don’t care if they’re 30, 40, 50, or 60. Who’s the best player?’”
Probst acknowledges that there was a lot of producer–network back and forth about the latest cast. “There was a lot of battling for people in this season,” he says. “We wanted 100 percent unity on our cast. That was the agreement we made. So that meant there were people battling for their person. ‘I want this person on!” Well, then you better convince everybody. Varner, we had to convince CBS. Ozzy, CBS had to convince us. That’s the truth. And I like that because we hold each other accountable. We all care about this game and we want to make it great, so let’s challenge each other.”
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The truth of the matter is that younger people (of both sexes) are more likely to be picked to compete because they look good in a bathing suit, while older people are more likely to be chosen because of their personality, which means they tend to be more dynamic to watch. But Probst also believes that experience of life naturally makes people more interesting once they put some additional miles on the odometer. “I think when you look at the history of this game, it’s much harder to be Zeke’s age and have a real impact, than it is to be Sandra’s age,” says the host. “They’ve been a parent, they may have had ordeals and obstacles to overcome in life, and they have a different perspective. And I’m not afraid of age anymore. Maybe because I’m old.”
In Survivor years, isn’t everybody? To watch Probst discuss age and returning seasons, watch the video above, and for more Survivor scoop, follow me on Twitter @DaltonRoss.