CBS showcases newest action-packed game show
It’s action packed, it’s high intensity, it’s funny and it’s CBS’ newest game show. Game On!, which is hosted by Emmy and Peabody Award-winning actor, writer and producer Keegan-Michael Key, is a show that celebrates the entertainment of sports, based on A League of Their Own, which is a BAFTA-winning show in the U.K. The show, which is executive produced by James Corden, pits two teams of three, captained by tennis champion and entrepreneur Venus Williams and Super Bowl champion Rob Gronkowski, alongside comedians Bobby Lee and Ian Karmel and rotating sports stars, comedians and celebrities, against each other in over-the-top physical challenges, absurd trivia and epic field competitions.
So what made Corden, who is also the host of CBS’ The Late Late Show With James Corden bring this type of game show to American audiences?
“The show has run at home for I think 15 seasons and it’s probably one of the flagship shows on that network,” Corden explained. “But in truth, if you start talking about sports and entertainment—that was all born in America. The differences between playing at Wimbledon or applying at the U.S. Open in New York is there’s music playing and there’s stuff happening all the time whereas Wimbledon is very straightened. So we thought that this show has been such a smash in the U.K. and if we could find the right trio of people then there is absolutely no reason why this show couldn’t work in the United States where there is no country on Earth that is more used to entertainment mixing with sports.”
After speaking to Williams, Gronkowski and Key about the concept of the show, who instantly understood the format of the show and were enthusiastic to get right to work, Corden knew they had something special.
“We thought we have a real opportunity to make a really unique and original show in America that doesn’t exclude anybody,” Corden explained. “That’s what we really like about the show is that all generations of a family could sit and watch this show together and will be enjoying it. And you don’t have to be a sports fan to love the show. It’s so vast in its scale that it’s really incredible watching these huge guests, particularly these huge team captains doing these phenomenal stunts that you’d never get to see. So particularly at a time when we were all missing sports it feels like a wonderful time to put it on. And we’re very proud of the show. We really are.”
And with high intensity action that is involved in every single episode, Williams said she was initially nervous to participate in some of the physical challenges.
“Honestly, I would get really nervous,” Williams said. “I don’t know if it showed, but it was fun to get outside of your box. And then if you didn’t do well, you could laugh about it because the show is about laughter, it’s about the personalities and it’s about us getting out of our comfort zone.”
Gronkowski agreed saying that the show is a trifecta of being unpredictable, fun and downright hilarious.
“We never took ourselves too seriously,” Gronkowski added. “We love competition, but it wasn’t an all-out type of competition. It was more of a joyful type of atmosphere throughout the competition. That’s why I signed up for it. I love competing, but at the same time I love to have a laugh. That’s what this show brings and brings to our whole society. It was never frustrating when I didn’t do well because we were out there for the joy of the show and that’s what the show was all about.”
Helming the show is Key, who some might remember from his days on the sketch comedy series Mad TV and Key & Peele, who said he was attracted to joining the show because of the team that was behind it.
“I was familiar with the British format and I’m a big fan of James,’” he explained. “I’m also an athletic person and I enjoy competition and the rush one gets from competing. The fact that this format and the theme of the show would be wrapped around sports was really exciting to me. Then there’s this wonderful joy and this hybrid quality of the show. It is its own show and it should have its own category, in my opinion, because it’s not only about the competing, but then we have these wonderful quiz segments. There’s also a lovely banter between the guests and panelists.”
The show also has a level of mystery to it for the panelists and even for Key himself since they don’t find out what the challenges are until the last minute.
“We don’t know what the challenges are going to be, we don’t know how we’re going to excel at them and we don’t know who is going to excel at them,” Key explained. “Sometimes the guests will participate and there’s this wonderful titillating unknown quality about it every time we do it. So that’s the stuff that really drew me to the show in the first place.”
And since the cast works very closely together playing and competing on Game On!, Gronkowski said it feels a lot more like a family, more so than playing football at times.
“I was getting that itch to join a family and the show felt like a family out there. From Keegan to Venus to Bobby to Ian to James being part of it and to all the producers,” Gronkowski explained. “When you’re in that football world you come together for all those years and each year it’s a different family that you become a part of. I miss that type of atmosphere and this was a chance that I could regain that type of atmosphere. And we’re still laughing a couple months later after the show’s done. It’s like family now. That’s what’s so great about it.”
Singer Demi Lovato, MMA fighter Ronda Rousey, comedian Gabriel Iglesias, professional basketball player J.R. Smith and other celebrities drop by Game On! as panelists to participate in some trivia and the physical challenges. Corden, who takes off his producer hat for a moment, will also appear as a celebrity guest panelist in an upcoming episode of the show, which involved him dancing with the Laker Girls at the Staples Center.
“I think the highlight of that episode was what I did with Gronk, Venus and Ian Karmel, who is one of the regular comedians on the show,” Corden explained. “We went to the Staples Center and danced with the Laker Girls during halftime. I’ve had a lot of moments in my life where I feel like I’m outside my body thinking I can’t believe I’m doing this, but standing in the tunnel at the Staples Center watching LeBron and all those guys leave the court and standing with Venus Williams, who is just an absolute God and a legend in my eyes, and Rob Gronkowski, who is one of the greatest tight ends of all time, all dressed up and surrounded by Laker Girls to go out and do this dance routine was amazing. Watching these two people who performed at the absolute pinnacle of their sports in the biggest games of all time, completely terrified of messing up a dance routine was fantastic. I really loved doing it and I hope if we get to make more we’ll get to do more crazy things like that.”
Catch Game On! on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on CBS.