Having spent enough time hanging out in the jungle with scheming sociopaths, “Survivor’s” Jeff Probst turns to a more positive endeavor with “Live for the Moment,” a special (and backdoor series candidate) that works so hard at being inspirational it’s tempting to throw used hankies at the screen. Playing like an adult version of the Make-a-Wish Foundation, the maiden hour focuses on a 41-year-old father of two with Lou Gehrig’s disease, treating him to a spectacular week of adventures to demonstrate how precious life is. Although brimming with good intentions, it’s a bit like “Queen for a Day” on steroids.
Roger Childs, who was diagnosed with ALS at 38, becomes the program’s de facto royalty. A long-time space enthusiast, he gets to visit NASA with his kids, fly in a military jet and reconnect with an old buddy on a lavish ski trip to Telluride.
He seems like a lovely enough guy, so it’s terrific that he’s getting to do all this. But Probst (who keeps popping up, almost like Rod Serling, to share in the joy) presses him and those around him to find and articulate a larger message in these moments, teaching us all how we should cherish life today.
That’s all well and good, I suppose, though Roger’s prognosis does alter one’s perspective, and all the “This Is Your Life” testimonials from friends and family are just a little too determined to make us cry.
Mostly, the project feels like a chance for Probst to display a softer side (he developed the concept), built around movie cliches of the “Seize the day,” “Get busy livin’, or get busy dyin’?” variety. (In success, future installments wouldn’t necessarily focus on terminal patients, according to CBS, though the criteria sounds a trifle fuzzy.)
Probst’s heart certainly appears to be in the right place. Still, in terms of surviving in the rough-and-tumble of reality TV, he ought to be the last guy who needs to be told it’s a jungle out there.