NEW YORK (AP) — As Jeff Probst planned his new talk show, he test-drove variations of the typical daytime program — an hour on the couch talking about social issues.
"They were so boring I couldn't even sit through the focus groups," he recalled. "It felt old. It just felt like the format was tired."
So the "Survivor" man threw it out, started over and is premiering a daytime show Monday filled with ideas united only by his enthusiasm. There's a party room. An ambush adventure. Guys on the couch. An end-of-show jury. His wife on the air.
Maybe he'll succeed and maybe he won't. But he's determined to have fun trying.
Probst is part of a crowded Class of 2012 in the syndicated talk world. Even though he's spent the past decade in prime time as host of television's most consistently successful reality show, he's less known than his rivals — Katie Couric, Steve Harvey and Ricki Lake. Two positives for Probst are his tie to daytime TV's most successful production company, CBS Television Distribution, and a time slot paired with Harvey and Ellen DeGeneres on many NBC stations.
"What he faces is introducing himself," said Bill Carroll, an expert in the syndication market for Katz Media. "They know that, with the promotions they are doing. Some of the audience knows him from 'Survivor,' some know him as a Regis (Philbin) substitute. For some, he's a new face. That's the challenge."
Already energetic, the 50-year-old Probst is buoyed by life as a newlywed and stepdad to his wife Lisa's two children. Getting married took him from his comfort zone to a better place and also provided "The Jeff Probst Show" with a theme, which is to encourage people to take chances and try new things in life.
His first week's guests include a couple in their 90s who met and got married within two weeks, three women in their 80s who dispense sex advice, stars of the documentary "The Queen of Versailles" who talk about their effort to build a big new house, and an 8-year-old girl who founded an organization to make the world a better place.
During the "Guys on the Couch" segment, Probst picks two men from the audience to come onstage and answer questions from women, primarily dispensing the male point of view on sex and relationships.
The daily "Ambush Adventure" segment is an idea most inspired by "Survivor." He chooses someone in the audience to do something to shake up their lives. They have to agree before knowing what that is. In one episode, an audience member reveals his dream to try standup comedy. Probst hands him a microphone and says he has 30 seconds to make the audience laugh. If he succeeds, he'll get a temporary job as a warmup comic for the talk show. The guy bombs.