“It was a gut feel thing, I guess like Dancing with the Stars was for me,” Daryl Somers says of his decision to host Nine’s new entertainment series, You’re Back in the Room.
In a career spanning 45 years, Somers has only fronted a handful of formats that weren’t his own: Bandstand, New Faces, Family Feud, Blankety Blanks, Dancing with the Stars. Now after a six year absence from our screens, he returns to host the UK format in which 4 “game show” contestants compete for prize money under the ‘spell’ of Irish hypnotist, Keith Barry.
“(Nine Director of TV) Michael Healy said ‘We’ve got this show and I’d like you to have a look at it and see if you’d like to do it. I think it could be up your alley,'” Somers recalls.
“I looked at the English show on YouTube and thought ‘There’s fun to be had in there, because of the interaction with the contestants doing the challenges and tasks, when they’re under hypnosis.’
“Dancing was a gut feel and this one was a gut feel. It was a sense of being able to have fun and ad lib, and there was no way you could rehearse what they would do. It was up to them to interpret what the task was.
“It needed someone who could go with the flow. These people might run into the audience or go anywhere. There was one guy who was told he’d robbed a bank and I was his partner in crime. But I had 5 questions to ask him in a rapid-fire quiz and Keith Barry told him, ‘With every question Daryl asks you, you will feel the police getting closer and closer so you have to escape, with Daryl preferably.’
“Before long he was hiding behind the set.
“Some people might be terrified at the thought anything could happen, but for me that was the thing that got me. And that it was funny.”
“It will bring up the old ‘Is it real?’ debate”
While he didn’t go under himself before the show, Somers fully expects the show to be met with a degree of scepticism.
“It will bring up the old ‘Is it real?’ debate,” he acknowledges.
“I got to meet the people before they were put under during the day and then again on the show. The overall effect was that they all felt more relaxed. Certainly in front of the audience when they were under, they were sort of oblivious to the audience. They were there but it didn’t worry them, because they were concentrating on the task at hand.
“It was like working at times with really good actors. I say that not because they were acting but because they were so focussed on the challenges. They really are believing in what they are doing.”
As the four struggle to complete challenges and tasks, comedy takes over, allowing Somers to improvise with their random behaviour.
“One thing that stood out to all of us doing it was the studio audience reaction, with about 400 people at FOX Studios in Sydney. It took about 6 or 7 hours to do the first show because it’s fairly involved.
“Keith Barry took them out of the studio to re-programme them and all of that stuff. But the audience stayed right through. Talk about belly laughs, it was such a genuine reaction, and the other aspect too was that the crew were laughing, and when you get the crew laughing you know it’s a very good sign.”
“People say ‘We love Hey Hey, when’s it coming back?'”
Somers has also recently been in the news as a result of Jo Beth Taylor’s remarks on I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here. Taylor revealed that she found it difficult to be a supporting player on Hey Hey It’s Saturday, despite acknowledging Somers had been lovely.
During our interview, the day after those remarks, he was unable to comment having been offline.
“I’ve spoken to Jo Beth not that long ago and she’s a terrific girl with a great talent. I have no idea what she’s said, so I will try and track it down,” he said.
But he didn’t share her view that Hey Hey it’s Saturday should remain rested, never to be revived.
“Oh really? That’s really interesting. She’s entitled to her opinion, that’s fine.”
Somers is hoping for another revival of Hey Hey, following its 2009 reunion and 2010 season return.
“We’re still talking,” he says of Nine management.
“But first things first. We’ll do You’re Back in the Room, and get that happening then we will get more serious about the possibility of Hey Hey.
“I think the timing of 45 years since we started and 60 years of television this year, if it was ever going to come back, be it for 1 or 2 specials or a run, then now would be a time to do it. While we’re all still alive and kicking it would be good to do it.
“Most places I go people start talking about their relationship with Hey Hey, and how strong it was. People say ‘We love Hey Hey, when’s it coming back? We grew up with it!’
“People always have a fond memory of it, it isn’t something that had darkness about it. Having been in their lounge rooms for so long, it’s now time to get on the wall with the big screens!
“From a cost point of view it’s not cheap, to get the whole thing happening again.
“For the time being we’re hoping You’re Back in the Room will work well.”
You’re Back in the Room premieres 7pm Sunday on Nine.