Wednesday February 13, 2013 03:30 PM EST
Jeff Probst Wants an All-Celebrity Season of Survivor
by Steve HellingWill Neil Patrick Harris soon be scheming his way to a Survivor victory?
It could happen. Host Jeff Probst has spoken to the How I Met Your Mother star about playing the game – and is currently looking for other celebrities who want to outwit, outplay and outlast the competition in hopes of being Sole Survivor on the long-running CBS reality show.
A celebrity season actually isn't that far fetched. Last season, The Facts of Life star Lisa Whelchel made the final three. And, in 2001, Kate Hudson and then–husband Chris Robinson showed up for an open audition for Survivor: Australia, before being turned away by producers. (How awesome would that have been?)
But for now, there's Survivor: Caramoan, the show's 26th season, premiering Wednesday night (8 p.m. ET). Ten new players will compete against ten returning players – with early favorites that include Dawn Meehan, a surprisingly tough 42-year-old mother of six from Utah, and Andrea Boehlke, a pretty blonde schemer from Wisconsin.
Catching up with PEOPLE, Jeff Probst reveals what to expect this season – and how a celebrity version would work:
Lisa Whelchel got a lot of buzz last season. Are there any other celebrities you'd like to see play the game?
Mark Burnett and I really want to do a celebrity version. We were just talking about this at a Grammy party last week. Neil Patrick Harris was there, and he told me flat out he wants to play. I challenged him and said "Do you really want to do it, or is this just a fun fantasy that will never happen?" He said, "I want to do it."
So, on the heels of NPH having the guts to say, "I'm in" – I'm putting out the challenge! If you are a celebrity and truly believe you could hack it, it's time to put up. It would be a shortened shoot – maybe 10 days or so – so you can still get back to do your movies and TV shows, and you won't lose so much weight that your agents will panic. But rest assured it will still kick your ass. If we can get a truly great cast together I think CBS would go for it.
Sounds fantastic. But until that happens, there's Survivor Caramoan: Fans vs. Favorites. What can we expect?
Even for Survivor, this is quite an unpredictable season. Evacuations, an impromptu tribal council, emotional breakdowns and a great finish. Of the 26 seasons we've done, I believe this will rank among the most memorable. I also think a couple of new favorites may be born this season.
You've chosen 10 returning contestants to play again – including some surprising choices. Why them?
When deciding on returning players we first look at their popularity. It doesn't mean they have to be well liked, but they must be memorable for something. Then we look at their "story." Is there an expectation surrounding their return – i.e., did Phillip learn anything from playing with Boston Rob? Will Cochran finally stand up and be heard? Will Brandon be able to control his emotions? Can Malcolm finish what he started? With this group we felt each has a story worth telling.
The fans seem awfully young. (Four of the five female fans are under 25.) Do they even stand a chance?
We have a fairly young group of fans, but they know the game well and many have been itching to play for a long time. The question is, will their adoration of the favorites make them vulnerable to a blindside? Or will their enthusiasm be the energy they need to keep up? Favorites have a major advantage going into day one.
Last season, contestant Sarah Dawson caught you by surprise when she kissed you – twice! Have you hired bodyguards to guard your personal space?
It's funny how many people have asked me if I was offended by the kisses. I wasn't at all. The kiss that happened at tribal council was probably due to the delirium brought on by not eating for so long. The kiss at the live reunion show was a funny button at the end of a great season of Survivor. The best part was looking out in the audience to see my wife Lisa laughing hysterically.