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Battle Royal

Published February 28, 2006

[Times photo illustration]

Battle royal
Who's the better reality-show host?
American Idol's Ryan Seacrest (I agree with Sean Daly)
Survivor's Jeff Probst (I agree with Chase Squires)

Forget red state/blue state, dog lovers/cat fanciers, Gator/Seminole. In these reality-TV times, the real question is: Ryan Seacrest or Jeff Probst?

As hosts of Fox's juggernaut talent contest American Idol (Seacrest) and CBS's wilderness challenge Survivor (Probst), they are two of America's best-known celebrities. To think, "reality TV host'' is a job that didn't even exist a few years ago. But now, thanks to the far-reaching influence of each show, your preference speaks volumes about who you are.

Times pop music critic Sean Daly, a Seacrest man, and TV critic Chase Squires, a Probst supporter, have one simple question:

Whose side are you on?

In this corner: Chase Squires fighting for Jeff Probst

Vitals: Age: 43; height: 5 feet 9; born: Wichita, Kan.; marital status: divorced, but heavily involved. Named one of People magazine's 50 Most Beautiful People in 2001; ordained minister, Universal Life Church.

Catch Phrase: "The tribe has spoken." Amen, brother.

Signature look: Dress-for-jungle-success. Every day is "casual Friday" in the Amazon. Jeff's urban swamp look is too cool for labels, too cool for hair gel, too cool for makeup. Too hot for Armani. Anyone can put on khaki, few can truly wear it see: Steve Irwin.

Greatest moment: Survivor All-Stars (2004), a deranged Susan Hawk erupts, claiming Richard Hatch assaulted her. "I was violated, humiliated, dehumanized," she explodes. Jeff leads her to a boat and off the island. His quiet power is awesome.

Hidden charm: It's his heart, and he wears it on his sweaty sleeve. Jeff is pals with the guys of Survivor, respects the ladies and loves his gal, former contestant Julie Berry. He took a verbal shot last summer at winner Richard Hatch about his IRS woes but learned he had hurt Hatch and apologized. "Life is hard, and people make mistakes," he told reporters of Hatch's plight. Jeff would never do you wrong. And if he did, he'd be sorry.

Ideal man-date: Jeff and I go for a long run in the jungle. We drink from streams, dash through rivers and race to the beach where we swim among the sea otters. As the sun sets, Jeff builds a fire using wet driftwood and a seashell, catches dinner with his strong hands and finds a cooler full of product-placement soda buried in the sand. He summons the gang for a sing-along by the fire, and as sparks from the fire drift to the stars, he recounts his exploits and adventures. Then he gives me the keys to a new SUV.

Brawny moment: Jeff's entire life is a Brawny moment. In Africa, he was stung by a scorpion ("You're in a tent, you shake your shoes out every day"), and on an island, chopping a coconut, he cut his wrist to the bone with a machete. (Note to Ryan: That's a big, manly knife.)

Media mastery: Hosts an Emmy-winning show, former journalist (Access Hollywood), charity spokesman (a pediatric AIDS foundation), wrote and directed award-winning film (Finder's Fee.)

Fans of Seacrest: You seek reflection in a shallow pool, asking others for the acceptance you cannot grant yourselves. Flashy fashions can't buy inner peace. You embrace losers to feel superior. You embrace winners to feast on their achievement.

Fans of Probst: You are adventurous and self-assured. You sweat when it's hot. You bathe when you can, often outside under rushing waterfalls. You mediate disputes with authority, foster debate where it intrigues you, and explore uncharted isles and human psyche with equal, ravenous hunger. Grab your torches, your light must shine.

In this corner: Sean Daly fighting for Ryan Seacrest

Vitals: Age: 31; height: 5 feet 7; born: Atlanta; marital status: After George Clooney, he's the hottest bachelor in L.A. Named one of People magazine's 50 Most Beautiful People in 2003. Received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2005. Oh, and he's host of the No. 1 TV show in America.

Catch phrase: "Seacrest . . . OUT!" Short, sweet and . . . um . . . okay, his tagline rots. But would you look at that smile!

Signature look: Fashionably sharp without being fashionably snobby, Seacrest wears jeans and a button-down shirt like Cary Grant wore suits. In other words, he'd never be caught dead donning the same stupid Panama Jack-looking getup for 37 consecutive seasons like Beetle freakin' Bailey.

Greatest moment: On last Tuesday's show, bottle-blond Heather Cox was getting savaged by Simon Cowell. Protecting the doe-eyed lass, Seacrest made quick work of the man-breasted Cowell: "And I would have worn a T-shirt under that sweater, but we all make mistakes."

Hidden charm: When Seacrest consoles crying parents - leveled by the realization that their kid will soon be working at Arby's - Ryan becomes the rare pop culture icon who is embraced by Gen Y, Gen X and baby boomers. A la Jerry Maguire, Seacrest is the lord of the living room. You love him, your mom loves him, your granny loves him. Group hug, everybody.

Ideal man-date: It's 3 a.m., and Seacrest and I are cruising down the Sunset Strip, thankful that Randy Jackson has agreed to be our designated driver. We've managed to seduce the Olsen twins into the back seat, and the Moet is flowing. To be honest, the rest of the night is a blur, but in the morning, after I wake up at Courtney Love's house and can't find my wallet, Seacrest will make the call to my fiancee. She'll fall in love with Ryan, too - but at least she'll forgive me.

Brawny moment: No brawn, just brains. Seacrest is too smart to be trapped, year after year, in a tsetse-infested jungle, muttering about alliances and torches and looking like the Man With the Yellow Hat's evil cousin.

Media mastery: Hit TV show. Hit radio show. Hot commercials. And to top it all off, he just signed a $21-million production deal with the E! cable network. Meet the new King of All Media.

Fans of Seacrest: People who know it's more fun reading US Weekly than National Geographic. People who are charming in any situation, especially when standing next to Clay Aiken. People who always get the joke. If you have to ask "What joke?" you're a Probst fan.

Fans of Probst: Men who wear big, black clunky watches with compasses on them. Men who wear tighty-whiteys. Men who name their body parts. Where are the female Probst fans, you ask? Exactly.

-- Chase Squires can be reached at (727) 893-8739 or Sean Daly can be reached at (727) 893-8467 or

[Last modified March 1, 2006, 10:56:24]

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