If you think you can’t reinvent the wheel, think again.
Comedian Michael McIntyre had an “Eureka” moment while taking a bath which led to his debut as a game show host.
“I had been thinking for a while about how game shows and quizzes are so popular and decided to try and think of a format for one,” he says. “And I thought of two in the bath, literally in a matter of moments.
“One of the ideas wasn’t very good. It is on the back burner.
“But the other was what I called ‘The Wheel’. I passed the idea on to Dan Baldwin, who produces Michael McIntyre’s Great Show, and he got down to it very quickly.
“The basic idea was to have a horizontal Ferris wheel, much like a roulette wheel, with celebrities sitting around it, acting as experts on their particular topics.
“And then you spin the wheel and wherever it stops, that person has to answer a question. Then we came up with the idea of another wheel, located below the main one, where three competitors sit. And the competitor’s wheel spins and the one who lands in the middle of the main wheel is selected.
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“The famous pundits are there to help answer questions and they’re also turned pretty quickly during the game.
“It sounds pretty complicated but it’s very easy to follow once you watch it.”
But after coming up with the format, he started to panic that everything would fall flat.
“I was worried about everything and these spinning celebrities and how fast they were going.
“Would that make them sick?” How is this thing even constructed? But it started to move and then we filmed 10 shows in a week and it couldn’t have been better.
However, his fears about motion sickness among the contestants have proven to be true.
“We were spinning the contestants a bit too much before we started filming, so they could see what it looked like. But we’ve stopped doing it now because some of them looked a bit rocky at first and it’s not good to start the show with people looking dazed and confused.
“I based the chairs around the steering wheel on the Jedi Council. My son was watching Star wars during the lockdown and I said, ‘What is this room? What do they do?’ It looked so impressive. And so we have kind of a Jedi Council set and it all looks very stylish.
Another concern with the show’s format was that while contestants could muster a significant amount of money in the pot with correct answers, there could be no real winner that night.
“I always want someone to win and I said to Dan and the team, ‘please can we just have a happy ending for every show? But they said, ‘You need danger and you won’t get it if someone always wins.’
“Well that’s undoubtedly true, but the other night when we taped the show nobody won and I found it very depressing and upsetting. But the next night this character absolutely wonderful won, which everyone was looking for, and it was fabulous.
The format may seem simple to McIntyre, but when he described it to TV guide, in its usual excitable way, we admit to being a little baffled.
And it turns out we’re in good company, as a lot of celebrity heads were also in a spin when they were initially approached to participate.
“We had trouble getting some reservations because of a ‘vertigo’ issue,” McIntyre laughs. “But there is no vertigo. I had to tell them over and over again that it was a flat spinning wheel, like a record player. It is not a big wheel. But when I mentioned it to various people, they would say to me, “Oh, I’m afraid of heights”.
“I ran into David Walliams and he kept saying, ‘Will my head be cut off? I said, ‘You don’t understand what I’m trying to explain to you. It’s just a round circle, like a huge cup of tea. ‘
The set may seem elegant, but McIntyre was adamant that he didn’t want to come across as too skillful and professional in his role at the center of things.
“I didn’t want to be ‘a game show host,’ he explains. “I just wanted me to host a game show.
“The first time I did it, I said, ‘So let’s meet the competition. They are … ‘and it looked like I was doing Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. I don’t want to sound like a traditional host so I took it very loosely.
“I don’t care a lot about doing things wrong. He’s trying to make it as much an entertainment show as a quiz show. “
The Wheel by Michael McIntyre, TVNZ 1, Wednesday September 22