This is a fairly tough, albeit somewhat subjective, question.
I pretty firmly place myself in the Jeff Probst (Survivor) camp, but I have seen some rather compelling arguments to pick other hosts.
There are a few factors that come into play here: salary, where they work and how much they work. People like Ellen, Dr. Phil, Ryan Seacrest, Steve Harvey or the Late Night folks make a shit load of money, but some of them have multiple jobs, work the entire year and just sit under studio lights the entire time. I also decided to not include Phil Keoghan (The Amazing Race) despite his 21-30 workdays per year for the show as he also hosts other travel and NatGeo type productions.
With these factors in mind, these are my nominees: Jeff Probst (Survivor), Chris Harrison (The Bachelor), Alex Trebek (Jeopardy!), Judy Sheindlin (Judge Judy), Tony Romo (NFL on CBS), Pat Sajak (Wheel of Fortune) and Guy Fieri (I didn't want to add him, but so many people replied to me about the King of Food Network, so I included him).
The question is: pound for pound, who has the best job in television? (Let me know below if I missed anyone)
DAYS: ~80 days of filming for Survivor (including reunion specials)
SALARY: ~$4,000,000 per year (as of 2016)
LOCATION: 97% an island in Fiji, 3% at reunions in studios
WHERE DO THEY AIR? CBS primetime (network TV)
ARGUMENT: Bias will seep through on this one because I truly think Probst has the best and coolest job in television. He only films his show 21% of the year and 'Survivor' is his only show. Like the other hosts on this list, Probst does other work for the show as well in terms of interviews for casting, production ideas, rehearsals and more, but the meat of his work is in those 80 days on an island in Fiji. Even when he is filming, he's outside on a fucking island! He gets to commentate fun challenges and whacky tribal councils. He is literally only filming for the cool shit on the show. Probst has the best gig and, honestly, he deserves it because he is dynamite in the role and has been for 20 years. Also, you can't forget this!
SHOWS: The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, Bachelor in Paradise, The Bachelor: Listen to Your Heart
DAYS: ~160 days of filming for the franchise (this varies as the main shows can go from six weeks to three months)
SALARY: ~$8,000,000 per year (as of 2019)
LOCATION: Majority in Los Angeles and Mexican resort, also time spent in the U.S., Asia and Europe
WHERE DO THEY AIR? ABC primetime (network TV)
ARGUMENT: Up until recently, Harrison also hosted 'Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?' in the daytime, but that was canceled and he is now solely focused on the 'Bachelor' Empire. The keeper-of-the-rose does have a pretty awesome job and was an immediate counter-reply by many, including our very own Fran...
Travel is a big part of Harrison's job and when he travels, he rarely shows up on air except for the taping of the rose ceremonies. Outside of production meetings, Harrison likely gets to enjoy exotic and glamorous cities (with a few mediocre ones mixed in between). A lot of these jobs involve TV magic, but the reunion and "tell-all" episodes of the 'Bachelor' franchise take hours upon hours to film and prepare for, so that is a bit of a downside. No chance those are that fun to do in comparison with the travel. Much of the work done in terms of filming just seems a bit boring for me, outside of 'Bachelor in Paradise', which sounds rather relaxing. All in all, I think the money and perks are great for Chris, but I think the workload lasts for a good chunk of the year and the exciting stuff doesn't totally outweigh the boring side of things.
DAYS: 46 days a year (roughly 12 hours and five episodes a day)
SALARY: ~$10,000,000 per year (as of 2019)
LOCATION: Culver City, California in a studio
WHERE DO THEY AIR? Various times, but mostly early evening in syndication (network TV)
ARGUMENT: Okay, Trebek has a pretty strong argument for the best job. His days are long, but he only works 13% of the year! Trebek's routine is also wild, as it includes him waking up at 5:15 AM and being out the door fifteen minutes later at 5:30 AM. That is some impressive efficiency. The production 'Jeopardy!' goes through is certainly intense, so those are 46 grueling days for Trebek as they hammer out a few shows a day. The money and time in between taping are very desirable here, but I wouldn't exactly call the taping of the quiz show very glamourous. Obviously Trebek gets to live in his nice digs during taping, but the show is filmed under the bright lights of the studio system in Culver City, California. Is the pay-off of grueling television hosting for fewer days on the job worth it? It just might be for some people. Regardless, there is no questioning that Trebek is a national treasure and we are all happy to see him healthy and back in the driver's seat for the show.
SHOWS: Judge Judy, Hot Bench (creator and producer)
DAYS: ~62 days a year (roughly five days a month)
SALARY: ~$47,000,000 per year (holy fuck)
LOCATION: Los Angeles, California
WHERE DO THEY AIR? Mostly daytime in syndication (network TV)
ARGUMENT: She makes that much money a year to yell at people on courtroom television!? My word. The syndication game is no joke and Judge Judy is her own personal television empire. All of this is well-deserved when you're the greatest of all time, without question, at your job. The Judge flies private back-and-forth from New York to Los Angeles on alternating weeks and she tapes for her show for only 17% of the days out of a year. I am sure there is some fun in being "the judge" for the yelling matches and absurdity that go on with her show, but I wouldn't stack this role up to other ones that might offer a little more freedom in terms of filming location and content. She also is the producer of the courtroom show 'Hot Bench', which films in her 'Judge Judy' studio, but I imagine that isn't a ton more work on top of her regular duties. With that said, good luck looking past salary attached to her job. Almost $50 million a year? Yeah…
…court dismissed, indeed.
SHOWS: NFL on CBS
DAYS: ~18-20 weeks a year (16 to 19 games)
SALARY: ~$17,000,000 per year
LOCATION: Different U.S. city each week
WHERE DO THEY AIR? CBS Sundays (network TV)
ARGUMENT: Romo is a recent addition to this family of amazing television jobs because of his insane $17 million contract to stay on with CBS as the lead color commentator alongside Jim Nantz. A lot of people brought up Romo, and his salary is a doozy, but I would argue he doesn't totally belong in this camp. While traveling and your job being "watch football" sounds pretty cool, a ton of prep and film study goes into getting ready for a major NFL broadcast in the color commentary role. Yes, he is getting paid to work roughly 30% of the year depending on if CBS has the Super Bowl, but the former Cowboys quarterback is working a ton compared to everyone else on this list. Romo has the best job in television, you say?
(where the hell does the "I don't know Jim!" clip exist!?)
SHOWS: Wheel of Fortune
DAYS: ~48 days a year (roughly six shows a day)
SALARY: ~$15,000,000 per year
LOCATION: Culver City, California
WHERE DO THEY AIR? Various times, but mostly early evening in syndication (network TV)
ARGUMENT: Out of the grouping of studio hosts on this list, I think hosting 'Wheel of Fortune' might be the most fun job. It's a fairly mindless show to host and Sajak gets some nice freedom to interject and interact with the contestants. The live studio audience is massive and it just seems like a great time. He only works for around 13% of the year and has a cushy job that he will never leave as long as he wants to continue to do it. The most comparable person on this list to Sajak has to be Trebek. Mr. Wheel-spinner himself makes more money, tapes an extra day or two a year but has a job that might be a touch less glamorous. Does the fame of 'Jeopardy!' outweigh the perks of the 'Wheel'? It's especially tough considering Sajak's show is also wildly popular as well.
SHOWS: Guy's Big Bite, Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives and Guy's Grocery Games
SALARY: N/A ($8,500,000 net worth, $100,000 per public appearance)
LOCATION: Across the country, resides in the Bay Area (I think?)
WHERE DO THEY AIR? Food Network daytime and primetime
ARGUMENT: There is no argument. Guy Fieri doesn't have the best job. But Guy Fieri is amazing and his restaurant, Chicken Guy, has the best chicken fingers I have ever eaten in my life.
You're still the man, Guy.
It's a tough debate because, when comparing them, they all have their respective pros and cons. But I still think, pound-for-pound, I would have to go with Jeff Probst. He makes great money, has great experiences every year and when he is working, he is doing it in a fairly desirable location. While everyone has their money underneath the bright studio lights in their suits, Probst gets to hang out on an island in his comfortable cargo shorts and button-down shirts.
Who is your pick? Sound off below…