BEVERLY HILLS — As “Survivor: Philippines” — the game’s 25th edition — begins, host Jeff Probst is envisioning a time when the show will have its own torch snuffed out.
“I don’t know how much longer we have,” says the Emmy-winning host of the competition series. “I have to say: If you stick around for the 25th (edition) and the 26th, then you’ll be hooked.”
“Survivor: Philippines” premieres 8 p.m. Wednesday on WVLT, Channel 8.
Budget cuts already have “Survivor” basically staying in the same part of the world, whereas earlier editions had the game hopping from the South Pacific region to Africa, China and beyond.
“Survivor” faces strong challenges. “The X-Factor,” which boasts Britney Spears as a judge this season, could siphon some of “Survivor’s” audience. During the second half of the season, “American Idol” always wins the time period against “Survivor.”
Probst says “Survivor” needs to get its audience back. The 24th edition, dubbed “One World,” was “a letdown.”
“We have to see if our fans are still loyal enough to stick around,” he says. “I don’t know (if they are). We’ll see.”
Executive producer Mark Burnett and Probst recognize the value of having former players come back to the show each season. This is in contrast to the early days of “Survivor,” when producers didn’t want references made to previous seasons in order to keep the game feeling current.
Now every season contains at least one past favorite if not more.
“Our fans like their stars, especially for a show that’s long in the tooth,” Probst says.
“It’s a little bit of a hook. It’s like (having) a guest star.”
Knoxville native Ben Wade, also known as “Coach” to “Survivor” fans, has played the game three times. Tina Wesson, a Knoxville native who won the show’s second edition, has played twice.
This latest edition has an abundance of such hooks.
The contestants split into three tribes this time. “Facts of Life” star Lisa Whelchel and 2000 National League Most Valuable Player Jeff Kent are among the contestants.
Past favorites Michael Skupin, Jonathan Penner and Russell Swan are also among the castaways. For Skupin, it’s a chance for redemption after he fell into a fire during his first time on the show and had to quit the game.
The problem with bringing back former players?
“Eventually, somehow, you have to make new (favorites), and this one — in season 25 — we do it,” Probst says.
“That works well for us.”
Other highlights for the week of Sept. 16-22. All times Eastern. Listings subject to change. Check local listings:
n “The Cosby Show” (9:30 a.m. TV Land). Bill Cosby’s hallmark sitcom is repeated in a marathon (through 2:30 p.m.). The series joins the cable channel’s primetime line-up Monday.
n “Boardwalk Empire” (9 p.m. HBO). A third season opens on New Year’s Eve 1922 when Nucky (Steve Buscemi) makes a resolution that makes an easily angered gangster very unhappy. At home, Nucky’s wife ruffles feathers more with her deal to turn over property to a church, against her husband’s wishes.
n “The Great Food Truck Race” (9 p.m. Food Network). The final four trucks pull into Nashville, where the challenge requires finding new help and training them on the fly.
n “Weeds” (10 p.m. Showtime). Nancy (Mary-Louise Parker) and her crew have one last puff as the series comes to a close.
n “Mob Doctor” (9 p.m. Fox). In this new drama, a physician (Jordana Spiro) compromises herself for the sake of her brother, who is in debt to organized crime.
n “Revolution” (10 p.m. NBC). After technology stops working on Earth, a band of survivalists venture out to solve a global conspiracy in this new sci-fi drama.
n “So You Think You Can Dance” (8 p.m. Fox). Apparently, someone can dance: A winner is named in the season finale.
n “Death and the Civil War: American Experience” (8 p.m. PBS). Close to 750,000 died in the Civil War, and this documentary examines how that impacted the country at the time.
n “The Best TV Shows of All Time” (9 p.m. ABC). An ABC-People magazine poll reveals which series we love the most. Among those in the special: Betty White, Carol Burnett and Tina Fey.
n “Big Brother” (9:30 p.m. CBS). Oh, brother, where art thou? We’ll see in the season finale when the winner is named.
n “SNL Election Special” (8 p.m. NBC). The “Saturday Night Live” players send-up current politics for this primetime half-hour special.
n “Parks and Recreation” (8:30 p.m. NBC). Lesley (Amy Poehler) navigates a new course for her life, post-election.
n “The Office” (9 p.m. NBC). The workplace comedy launches its final season (but with the promise of a spin-off hovering).
n “Haven” (10 p.m. SyFy). A third season brings along Dorian Missick (“Southland”) and Kate Kelton (“Harold and Kumar”) aboard in recurring roles.
n “Camel Spiders” (9 p.m. SyFy). Killer spiders from the Middle East find their way to America — and new human prey during this movie.
n “Saturday Night Live” (11:30 p.m. NBC). Joseph Gordon-Levitt is host, with music guests Mumford and Sons.
© 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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