Ahead of the premiere of Fox’s competition series SuperHuman tonight (June 12), realscreen presents an exclusive clip from the shiny floor entertainment series.
Hosted by actor and presenter Kal Penn, and featuring panelists Mike Tyson, Christina Milian and Dr. Rahul Jandial, the 8 x 60-minute series features five contestants with extraordinary abilities competing for a grand prize of US$50,000. The series is to be produced by Endemol Shine North America.
Each episode of the format features participants with nearly super-human skills – from memory, hearing, taste, touch, smell and sight, among others – are challenged to push their talents to the limit.
SuperHuman, which follows a two-hour special that aired in January 2016, is based on an Endemol Shine Germany format titled The Brain. The format has also been produced in China, Italy, Brazil, Spain and France. Spanish and German nets launched a children’s version of the show.
The series is exec produced by Robert Smith, George Hurford Jones and David Friedman, and is slated to air tonight (June 12) on Fox at 9 p.m. ET/PT.
Realscreen spoke with Rob Smith, head of unscripted television at Endemol Shine North America, and Lisa Perrin, CEO of Creative Networks at Endemol Shine Group, about the formatted series for North American audiences.
What was the genesis for this series?
Rob Smith: Several years ago, Syfy was looking for a new type of competition series and The Brain had recently launched in Germany and we thought it would be an amazing fit for them. We did several months of development with them and really nailed how to do the show here…casting, challenges, the works. Then, as we were about to be ordered to series, the Syfy exec who championed the project left and we were set adrift. But our materials were really strong and we realized that this really had the makings of a big broadcast network series. Dana Walden and Gary Newman had just started at Fox and we heard the network was looking for big family-friendly programming. We pitched the format to the unscripted execs there…and got a backdoor pilot. The pilot premiered well with great reviews in the doldrums of January with fairly minimal promotion and that got us an eight-episode order and here we are today.
Why do you think there is an appetite for this series?
Lisa Perrin: SuperHuman celebrates everything wonderful and amazing about the human condition. It highlights just how talented everyday individuals are, and in a world of celebrity really turns a spotlight on extraordinary talents. It’s wonderful to celebrate this and fascinating to watch. This is something audiences all over the world can relate to, especially at the moment when there is a trend for escapism television.
Can you talk about how The Brain rated in Germany and why you think this will be a successful adaptation for the North American marketplace?
RS: In Germany, the premiere season of The Brain had six million viewers and exceeded broadcaster ZDF’s average primetime ratings by +33% for the commercial target (Adults 14-49). It’s now aired its sixth season. At Endemol Shine North America, our whole model is taking these incredible International formats from our sister companies and making them accessible creatively for the US market. We’ve had tremendous success with shows like MasterChef, Deal or No Deal and more…and think we have another great one here.
LP: For us it was no surprise that it got picked up in the U.S. and was quickly commissioned for a series following the special last year. Endemol Shine North America has done an amazing job translating the format for Fox and the U.S. market, they are true experts at bringing big production values and A-list talent to a show. It’s compelling and exciting to watch.
What challenges did you face with production and how did you overcome them?
RS: The biggest challenge was blowing up some of these mental challenges to make the show a worthy competitor to the other talent shows out there on broadcast. For example, many memory experts hone their talents by memorizing a shuffled 52 card deck in order. It’s incredibly difficult, and I could never do it, but it’s not very visually stimulating for a big stage show. So our producers really spent a lot of time coming up with crazy, big and interesting ways to test these skills that would be engaging and entertaining for the audience, and they definitely pulled it off.
What elements of Superhuman make it different from other unscripted shiny floor projects on air today?
RS: Look, I’ve got three young kids, and what I love about this show is that, while it’s massively entertaining, it celebrates smart. It shows how cool working hard and getting your brain in shape could possibly be. That’s a show I’m proud to have my kids watch and not something that’s often seen on TV. And we do it in a way where we’re “hiding the broccoli” in a very entertaining way. We’re making it cool without hitting you over the head with it.
How does this series fit into Endemol Shine’s mandate/strategy
LP: This is a perfect example of our belief that a good idea can come from anywhere, it doesn’t always have to be born in the U.S. or UK to be successful and travel. The Brain is a wonderful German format that has been a hit in Europe and now has traveled the other way into the U.S. We have creative teams around the world coming up with hit shows for their broadcasters and by leveraging our global scale we can very quickly see our ideas travel to multiple territories. Non-scripted formats are our life-blood — we have two the of the most successful formats in the world in MasterChef and Big Brother but we always want to grow and nurture more. Fingers crossed SuperHuman can become one of those.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.