“It’s not going to make you smarter, but it is going to make you laugh”
Originally planned for another timeslot, Celebrity Name Game is thrust into the 6pm limelight.
TV is sometimes known for bing nimble and thinking on its feet. When 10 realised it needed to replace Pointless due to low ratings it turned to a show in production with Grant Denyer.
“Celebrity Name Game was initially designed for another timeslot in another part of the week for a very limited run. It was an off the radar, non-prime time low key slot,” he tells TV Tonight.
“But when we were making it the crew were in stitches. With 20 years’ experience they were spitting out their coffee. The control room were playing it. And then I noticed various executives started popping their head in the studio. I started to get the realisation that there were more eyes on this than I initially thought.
“There’s a lot of potential to this.”
“The more we did it the more 10 realised there’s a lot of potential to this. So it was thrust into the limelight in a higher-profile opportunity, which is cool.”
But the good news came at a critical time when severe back problems required hospitalisation, impacting Denyer’s television and radio commitments.
“Originally we weren’t supposed to start filming until after Dancing with the Stars had finished. But the start date was brought forward and then the injury happened,” he explains.
“It was a difficult period and it couldn’t have come at a worse time. I had that overlap of Dancing with the Stars, Celebrity Name Game and radio. So it was a perfect storm of work and unfortunately the universe told me to take it a bit easier.
“I really wanted to finish Dancing with the Stars to finish what I started. I was loving he show but feeling like I was letting everybody down.
“So I propped myself back up and cheated the clock by getting some cortisone injections to finish it off.”
“It could be another three months or so before I can sit.”
Last week he filmed 12 episodes in 2 days, although the recovery is far from over.
“I’m virtually pain-free, with a little bit of discomfort. But I’m a lot more mobile. I just can’t sit down yet.
“It could be another three months or so before I can sit. At the moment I’m standing for radio and during Celebrity Name Game I have a little lie down, to let the back stretch out a little. With proper maintenance, I’m fine.
“We’re a little bit behind the schedule because of the injury but thanks to everybody for their patience and understanding.”
The good news is he is loving Celebrity Name Game, devised by Courteney Cox & David Arquette which sees contestants paired with celebrities in a chase for a nightly $10,000 prize. The simple format pits teams in a race against the clock to guess names, places & characters from pop culture.
“You can shout at the television.”
“It’s an easy watch. It’s not going to make you smarter, but it is going to make you laugh. The celebrities struggle in front of your eyes, which is my favourite thing. You can shout at the television. One of the key ingredients of a successful game show is the playability at home,” he explains.
“It’s the kind of thing you would play if you have friends over, with a couple of glasses of wine and everyone laughs until midnight.
“It’s quite an easy show to make, actually. Because you have a couple of celebrities there they are good wingmen /women that you can toss balls to and they can help you out a little with the hosting duties.
“Whereas with Family Feud a lot of I was on my shoulders. I find it a really fun and easy environment to work in.
“It’s more informal than Family Feud was”
“It’s more informal than Family Feud was. It’s pretty loose which is what I love about it. There’s a lot of giggling and mucking around, and a lot of not taking any of this seriously.
“The only bit that is serious is at the end where you can win $10,000.
“(NSW Premier) Gladys Berejiklian said she is a massive fan of the format already and is dying to get on. So we’ve made the approach and things are with our producers at the moment.”
After winning the Gold Logie last year has Denyer come to embrace his game show status, especially given he once said he never wanted to host the genre?
“I’ve grown to like it and not have an issue with it,” he confirms. “The important part of any broadcasting is to find something that suits your personality and skill. I was never going to be an accountant or doctor, I was always the class clown.”
“We’re in a tough slot so it will be a bit of a slow burn”
But if Pointless disappointed in the ratings race can Denyer lift the network numbers in the slot where Family Feud eventually burnt out?
“It’s going to take a little bit of time!” he insists. “We’re in a tough slot so it will be a bit of a slow burn to get everybody back to 6pm. I believe we can do it but it’s not going to happen overnight.
“It’s a family entertainment offering so if you don’t want to watch the news on Seven or Nine, or if you have kids and you don’t want to have that on in the household, we’re a nice little island you can go to.”
Celebrity Name Game airs 6pm weeknights on 10.