It was a year ago that The Almost Impossible Game Show bowed in the UK on ITV2, promising a comic twist on the competitive gameshow format featuring challenges “so swear-bleepingly, bum-bruisingly, face-slappingly tricky” (according to network promo material) that contestants are given 50 attempts to win, and still have almost no chance.
Produced by Endemol Shine UK, the British format proved funny enough to be picked up earlier this year for a second run on ITV.
But there were also those who just didn’t get what they were watching. A handful of online critics lamented that the sets and over-sized props looked cheap, the challenges, complete with voice-over commentary from two Irish men with plastic bags covering their faces, were deemed too weird and some of the laughs a little too silly.
All that for a chance to win a small amount of money and a trophy the size of a tea cup.
It’s to the latter folks that producers Matt Odgers and Scott Teti, whose L.A.-based Left Hook Media is behind the upcoming U.S. version of the show with Endemol Shine North America, delivered this message:
The Almost Impossible Gameshow is not meant to be glossy, flashy or beautiful. Rather, it celebrates the absurd.
“This is like a bunch of lunatics who escaped an asylum and ran out into the desert and started a gameshow. None of it makes any sense,” Odgers told realscreen during a recent interview.
“This is ridiculous and that is why people are going to watch,” he said.
Drawing on their previous experience while working at 51 Minds Entertainment on oddball reality hits like Flavor of Love and I Love New York, Odgers and Teti are confident, no matter how wacky the concept, the show will be welcomed by American viewers, particularly those in a young, 18 to 24-year-old demographic. Though, said Teti, the show is likely to have wider appeal based on UK reaction.
“I feel like it is made for everyone,” he said.
And while much of the humor is derived from the falls and spills endured by contestants in their quest to beat the game, the casting was critical to the formula.
To that end, Left Hook went to the same agency, Iconic Casting, it used in the past to pack the show with the kind of big characters who naturally supply drama and laughs, often in novel and unexpected ways.
It was no easy ask. With 120 roles to fill, agents scoured cosplay conventions, amusement parks and even Hollywood Boulevard to bring big characters to the show.
“We didn’t want athletes or people who were psyched to compete,” said Odgers. “We need people who are funny or fun.”
All 20 episodes of the U.S. format were shot over 12 days, with 24 contestants on set daily. They were divided into groups of six to compete in different, and increasingly zany, challenges, from catching and eating a pickle that is dangling from their crotch on a string (with no hands, of course) to riding a teeny tiny bike, or mastering an oversized treadmill known as the “tumbulator.”
In a twist of the traditional gameshow format, the contestants aren’t competing against each other, but instead are focused only on trying to beat the game. If you beat four games (before using up your 40 lives), you win the show.
But that, in itself, is near impossible.
“A lot of the time there were no winners,” said Teti, adding, “It is called The Almost Impossible Gameshow. It’s not that easy.”
Adding to the lunacy, winners suffer the pain and humilation of almost certain defeat all for a chance at a $500 prize and a tiny trophy.
Why do they do it?
Teti puts it down to human nature: “There is this kind of thing that clicks on in their heads because they get so frustrated. The frustration sets in and the competitive nature takes over.”
Plus, added Odgers, “This is also a generation of people who like to have goofy fun.”
The first of 20 30-minute episodes bowed on MTV Oct. 13 at 10 p.m. ET/PT, with subsequent episodes airing every Thursday (with a short gap anticipated after the first 10 episodes air).
Watch clips of the show here.