- - Monday, September 10, 2012

PBS’ “Masterpiece” drama showcase is getting a fashionable new supporter.

The public TV program said Monday that the Ralph Lauren Corp. will become a national sponsor, marking the company’s first TV sponsorship.

“Masterpiece” executive producer Rebecca Eaton called Mr. Lauren’s support a tribute to the program, home of the hit British period drama “Downton Abbey.”

During last February’s New York Fashion Week, Mr. Lauren presented his fall 2012 collection to music from “Downton Abbey,” telling the Associated Press that he’s “always loved the heritage and romance of England.”

Mr. Lauren’s first on-air display of sponsorship begins Sept. 30 with the series “Upstairs Downstairs,” which the company called another source of fashion inspiration.

Mr. Lauren joins current “Masterpiece” corporate funder Viking River Cruises. Viewer donations and the Masterpiece Trust also help fund the program.

‘Saturday Night Live’ adds three cast members

“Saturday Night Live” is launching a youth movement.

The NBC stalwart announced Monday it will add three featured players to its cast for its 38th season, all of whom have experience with the longtime comedy feeding ground, Second City.

Deals for Aidy Bryant and Tim Robinson, rumored late last week, were made official, while sketch veteran Cecily Strong will also join the cast.

Miss Bryant is a Second City E.T.C. Stage alum, and performed at Chicago’s Annoyance Theater. Mr. Robinson, who also has a role in Christopher Mintz-Plasse’s CBS’ midseason comedy, “Friend Me,” performed with Second City’s Mainstage and National Touring Company. Miss Strong also worked with the Touring Company, and trained at iO Chicago, where Miss Bryant received her training.

“SNL” is facing a bit of a reboot, as longtime favorite stars Kristen Wiig and Andy Samberg left the show after last season. It recently was announced that Abby Elliott is exiting the show, as well. Miss Wiig and Mr. Samberg have moved to film full time, while Miss Elliott has an arc on “How I Met Your Mother.”

“SNL” premieres Saturday with Seth MacFarlane as host and Frank Ocean as musical guest. Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Daniel Craig will serve as the season’s next two hosts.

Probst’s new talk show tries to break the mold

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 premiered 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.

Mr. 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 Mr. Probst are his tie to daytime TV’s most successful production company, CBS Television Distribution, and a time slot paired with Mr. Harvey and Ellen DeGeneres on many NBC stations.

Already energetic, the 50-year-old Mr. 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, Mr. 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.

The party room is unique, inspired by the welcoming atmosphere Mr. Probst found backstage at Jimmy Kimmel’s show. The room next to Mr. Probst’s stage is built like a living room, with massage chairs, a makeover station, photo booth, snacks and computers to check social media.

“It’s in my nature that I’m a people pleaser,” Mr. Probst said. “I’m asking you to be part of this, so I’m worried about you having a good time. I want you to feel good. I want you to tell your friends that they treated us really well and the show is really fun. And that you got to be on TV.”

It buys good will and, he hopes, a good atmosphere.

His wife works as a talent coordinator for the show and also will appear on the air. Just about anyone who works backstage, is in the audience or visiting the party room has a chance to get on. Before the show finishes each day, Mr. Probst will try a “breaking the wall” experience of going into the control room to discuss with producers what worked that day and what didn’t.

His relative lack of visibility to the daytime audience gives him “a mountain to climb,” Mr. Probst said, but he has his hiking boots on. He said he will continue on “Survivor” whatever happens with the talk show.

“It’s odd that I don’t feel any pressure to succeed or not to succeed,” he said. “It’s not that I have ‘Survivor’ [as a backup], it’s that all you can do is your best, what you’re capable of. This is my best, and I’m going to get better every day.”

Compiled from Web and wire reports

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