I mean, if somebody really needs me tonight between 7 and 10, I’d probably maybe possibly pick up the phone. Perhaps. And if the house catches fire, I’d consider at least making sure the cats get out OK. But otherwise, you cannot pry me away from the TV because it is Survivor Finale Night and we get three hours of Jeff Probst and backstabbing, lies, blindsides, tears and Jeff Probst. And this season we even got a Dragon-Slayer/Coach who entertained us with stories of escaping little Amazonian cannibals while on a solo kayak trip yet never once demonstrated fire-making ability. Interesting. We also had two Alabama folks — one of whom, young cattle rancher J.T., is still in it right now and if my younger daughter did not already have a perfectly nice boyfriend I would so get them together. The other Alabamian, Debbie, a middle-school principal from Auburn, is on the jury. There’s also Taj, from Nashville, Tennessee, a former pop star whose husband is former NFL player Eddie George and who is also one of the four finalists. So I feel well represented tonight. The other finalists are Stephen, J.T.’s silent partner in crime, and Erinn, who has no chance whatsoever of winning the million dollars. But I’ve been wrong before, so we’ll see. The sad part is that this means “Survivor” is over for the season, but we get at least two more seasons. And that also means that one of my other favorite reality-competition shows, “So You Think You Can Dance,” will start soon. I’ve never gotten into “Dancing with the Stars” — I really don’t care if Lil’ Kim can do a tango or not — but SYTYCD has talented young dancers who just want a chance to prove themselves and some of the edgiest and most creative choreography you can see on TV. And I can watch SYTYCD in the summer secure in the knowledge that Jeff Probst is out in a wilderness somewhere, keeping the “Survivor” torches glowing until it’s time for fall and season No. 19.
It’s that time of the TV year when everything else is background and 7-8 p.m. on Thursdays and Sundays becomes sacred. That’s when I lust over watch Jeff Probst preside over the disintegration of carefully molded alliances and then ponder the detached imponderability of Amazing Race host Phil Keoghan. Survivor is my absolutely favorite TV show of all time. I love the backstabbing and lies and conniving and skulduggery — and that’s just the first episode. Amazing Race, for me, is less about the personalities and more about the intriguing idea of racing around the world with only a backpack when it takes me two pieces of luggage just to go to the nearest Big City for a weekend. I watch to learn. And this season on Survivor, we’ve got two Alabama contestants and one from Nashville, Tennessee, so I always root for the hometown folks. I also predict Sandy will be among the first to go and Benjamin will be trouble. In Amazing Race, I’ve got Mark and Michael pegged for an early exit, which is sad because those are my brothers’ names. But if reality TV teaches us anything, it’s that you can’t let sentiment — or honesty or friendship or kindness or any of those other peskily inconvenient values — get in the way. Don’t you love it?
Ah, it’s fall, and that means one thing: “Survivor” is back! I love this show! Thursday night was the opening of its 17th season, filmed in Africa’s Gabon, which is billed as “Earth’s last Eden.” The first episodes are always fun as we viewers try to identify the good, the bad and the clueless. And it’s our chance to get to know what the contestants normally look like while they still have clean hair and somewhat intact clothes. And then, of course, there’s my man, Jeff Probst — now, after his recent Emmy win, officially proclaimed best reality-show host ever (OK, I added in the “ever” part. But still.) I’ve always thought Jeff is the perfect candidate for vice president. I mean, he’s kind but tough, smart but accessible, believes in hard work and trying your best and, most importantly, takes no nonsense from anybody. Isn’t this exactly what we need??? I think so. Plus, he’s so cute and looks great in both a tux and a baseball cap. I’m telling you, if we’d all just listen to Jeff, we’d be in much better shape. I’m just saying. So here are my predictions for this season: Ace and Bob will get the boot after the merge, Jacquie and Kelly will remain under the radar and Charlie will see his carefully constructed alliance disintegrate before his eyes — or rather, he won’t see it because he’ll be completely blindsided. Jeff has said that this season degenerates into the most intense “good versus evil” competition he’s ever seen. Now, that will be interesting! Cannot wait.