Once in the Golden Age of Game Shows, contestants knew every beat and inch of the program by heart before they ever stepped into the studio. Some shows moved fast, some moved slower — but all hit the exact same notes in pretty much the exact same way day after day.
But suddenly game shows are not the dinosaurs they once were. On "Let's Make a Deal" for example, thanks to the influence of Twitter, DVR's and interractive technology, the game show has the ability to turn each episode on its head every day. For its producer and host, the challenge is how to keep up with the changes rolling over it. And for contestants seeking their fortune on a game show today, the key is understanding it's a very different show you're stepping into.
Here's a peek behind the scenes of the show as well as some tips to help you make your own deal:
The show didn't originally feature contestants wearing costumes — that evolved during the years Monty Hall hosted. Today, the decked out contestants are "Deal's" signature. So how did they take a contemporary comic like Wayne Brady — the polar opposite of the legendary Monty Hall — and stuff him into a 50-year-old game show crammed to the rafters with so much history? The answer is: they didn't. They took the show, costumes and all, and made it fit Wayne Brady. "That's the promise I made him," says Mike Richards, executive producer of "Deal," on how he convinced the comedian to sign up. "This would be how you would do a show, not you hosting a game show."
Richards remembers bringing his wife to one of Brady's live improv shows (he tours with Jonathan Mangum and musician Cat Gray) and halfway through, "she's sweating and cramping in her stomach and she says, 'Seriously, I can't laugh anymore — does he take a break?' And the whole place was like that."
Under Brady's mike, it's basically a live improv show combined with one of those episodes of "Oprah" where she gives stuff away combined with the movie "Indecent Proposal" and a nonstop dance party. The question isn't how to make a good game show, says Richards, it's "how do we make this the funniest show in daytime?"
[Related: The 10 Best Celebrity Game Show Freak-Outs]
Tip #2: Be ready to shake it. During the commercial breaks, get up and dance while the crew sets up the next segment. You won't be alone and you might even win some money doing it, so be sure to bring your twerking shoes.
The energy of the audience is unique and there are not a lot of people who could handle the pressure of hosting a show while a crowd full of bananas and skyscrapers and bags of jellybeans scream and dance — maybe not even Brady himself. "If I would have done this 10 years ago, I wouldn't be able to do it," he says. But since the age of 16, he's performed "in front of comedy club audiences, audiences at Carnegie Hall, and at the White House, to strip mall clubs, to big arenas, to college campuses and everything in between." Which, it turns out, is exactly the experience you need to know how to deal with an office manager dressed as a SWAT cop.
You definitely won't see the same show twice — it's unpredictable by design. Aside from the prize descriptions and a vague outline of the games ("There really are no games — it's all 'this' or 'that,'" Richards reveals), there's really no script, which means it's up to Brady to keep things running smoothly. He has to corral excited contestants while keeping an eye on gameplay and deciding how much money to offer, all while still being engaging for the audience. "It takes a huge amount of energy so at the end of the day, I'm pretty much wiped," Brady admits.
Brady isn't the only one who has to stay on his toes; Gray is with him every step of the way, playing the show's soundtrack with such a quick response time that it feels a little like a live-action cartoon. "I don't really view it as music," he says, because it's not like playing on tour or in a studio, "It's kind of all a big puzzle." His set-up allows him to jump through patches and programs at top speed so he can go from "bagpipe to heavy metal to whatever in one second."
And he loves it. After years of touring with artists like Prince and Stevie Nicks, scoring video games, TV shows, and even the trailer for "Django Unchained" last year, "Let's Make a Deal" is his favorite gig. "It's gotta be this one. Because it's the weirdest one!"
Tip #5: Follow @LetsMakeDealCBS. The day before a taping, they'll tweet Quickie Deals — maybe it's a neon shoelace or a black pen or a paintbrush. If you've got it on you at the show, you could walk away with a Ben Franklin or three.
"The show is, at its core, not a game show. It's an audience participation show," says Richards, which is why @LetsMakeDealCBS has more Twitter followers than any other game show on television. So a special Twitter episode sounds like a no-brainer. "Deal" producers asked questions and took answers live as the show was taped so nobody knew for sure what would happen. Fans were asked how much money a prize should be worth and which box to put it in, and gave hints to the contestants.
Producers even took answers from a @YahooTV tweet to pick Gray's first word spoken on the show — he's usually too busy doing the music to talk. After the show, he said the producers were hoping for "bologna" or "some kind of meat product because I'm a vegetarian." And what was he hoping for? "Bleeeeeep!"
James Lipton would be proud.
Watch a clip from "Let's Make a Deal":
- Arts & Entertainment
- Wayne Brady
- Mike Richards