For the 16 male and female contestants on USA Network’s Monday competitive reality show “Summer Camp,” the experience is a chance to visit a lakeside retreat and relive the fun they had as kids — and also have a chance to win a $250,000 prize.
For host Matt Rogers, a Season 3 finalist on FOX’s singing competition “American Idol,” it was also lots of fun.
“Typically in shows that I’ve hosted in the past,” he tells Zap2it, “I’m a lot more facilitative, in terms that I get questions out of people, and I interview more and interact more. This was super easy for me.
“I’m the camp director, so I show up, I give them the rules, I tell them what they can do and what they can’t do, and then I just direct them in the right way. They take the whole show over. It’s definitely about the cast and enjoying summer camp.”
The job also represented another chance for Rogers to realize his childhood dream — and that has nothing to do with canoeing or sitting around a campfire.
“I always wanted to do it,” Rogers says, “ever since I was a kid. I remember being 3 years old and recording myself when I got my first cassette player. I had my own ‘Saturday Night Live’ shows with my brother.
“My guests would be my brother and my dad and mom. I’d interview them. When I was on ‘American Idol,’ that was kind of the vehicle for me to get wherever I wanted to be. When I got voted off, I sat down with [host Ryan] Seacrest, and I said, ‘Dude, help me. I want to do what you do.’
“I said, ‘I don’t want to go the music route; I want to host my own television show, because that’s what I focused on.’ “
Luckily for Rogers, Seacrest turned out to be more generous than most Hollywood types when a young person announces he’s pursuing a similar ambition.
“He was super cool,” says Rogers. “He hooked me up with his agency, and I’ve been with the same guys ever since. We’ve had success; it’s been great.
“A rookie coming up to you and saying, ‘Hey, I want to do exactly what you do’ … he was super cool. He opened a door for me, and he helped me out. He had a show called ‘On the Air With Ryan Seacrest,’ and it was going to be my first job.
“But, unfortunately, it got canceled before I even started, so that was a bummer.”
Rogers has an idol of his own, but it’s not a singer.
“I grew up watching game shows,” he says. “So, I’m a huge Bob Barker fan. I would say Bob Barker and Dick Clark are my favorite hosts. I grew up on ‘Password’ and ‘Classic Concentration’ and ‘Love Connection’ and ‘The Price Is Right.’ I love game shows.
“That’s one thing that I still haven’t done, that I’m dying to do. I want to host my own traditional game show.
“If I had my choice, obviously ‘The Price Is Right’ would be my first choice, but Drew Carey’s got that locked down. Oh, dude, I would love for them to bring back ‘Card Sharks’ or ‘Classic Concentration’ and let me host those shows.”
Rogers has also taken some lessons away from “Summer Camp.”
“You’re never too old to go back and get a redo,” he says, “a do-over, and everybody wants one. The vibe, the environment, from the campers was really positive.
“They were genuinely excited to go back and do summer camp all over again. It really shows on camera, on the show. Yeah, you’re competing for $250,000, which is where the game aspect comes in. But outside of the game, these people were genuinely happy to be there.
“It’s not like one of those reality shows where you get thrown into the jungle on a deserted island, where you’re like, ‘Get me the hell out of here.’ “
If adults can find fun returning to “Summer Camp,” Rogers hopes that he can bring them the same fun but in their ordinary lives.
“I would like my next hosting gig,” he says, “to be an organic, in-the-field game show, where I actually show up at an average, everyday spot.”
For example, Rogers says, what about surprising a mom doing her grocery shopping and making a wager with her based on how far he and she can roll a can of soup down an aisle?
“If you beat me,” he says, “I’ll give you $500. But if I beat you, you’ve got to get on the loudspeaker and tell everyone that you have a crush on Matt Rogers — something like that.
“Why do ordinary things have to be so monotonous? Why can’t they be fun?”