The U.K. edition of iconic game show “Password” will bow imminently on broadcaster ITV, and new countries are being added.
Variety can reveal that the Fremantle-owned format is getting versions in Greece (Alpha TV), Hungary (TV2), Israel (Channel 13), Mexico (TV Azteca) and Slovakia (TV JOJ).
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The word association game, which first launched on CBS in 1961, sees captains and contestants try to guess their teammates’ passwords with the help of one-word clues. The U.K. version will offer a cash prize in the final. It benefits from the presence of three eminent comic talents: Stephen Mangan as host and BAFTA winners Alan Carr and Daisy May Cooper as team captains.
The most recent U.S. version, starring Keke Palmer and Jimmy Fallon, launched last year on NBC and quickly became one of the network’s most popular shows. The U.K. version will have its own distinct flavor.
Mangan, who, along with his family, is a fan of the U.S. show, tells Variety, “We do it slightly differently. We bring a British sense of humor to it, I think that’s the thing. And there’s a silliness, I guess, to it. Also, the sarcasm and relationship you have between Alan and Daisy is very British.”
Cooper adds, “We’ve probably made it cheekier, that’s for sure. We go off on tangents because sometimes passwords remind us of bits of our life stories, which bores everyone else to tears, I’m sure. It’s just more naughty, I suppose.”
Carr watched a few episodes of the latest U.S. version, and also episodes from the 1960s featuring Betty White in preparation for the U.K. show. “We were lucky enough to have Betty White on Jimmy’s ‘Late Night’ show, and we played a round of ‘Password’ as a nod to Betty being a part of the original NBC version starting back in 1961,” said Jim Juvonen, executive producer of “Password.” “We’ve played it dozens of times since, and when Fremantle decided to make ‘Password’ again for the U.S. market, they approached Jimmy and asked if he would bring his late night version to prime time on NBC.”
The way audiences in the U.K. respond are quite different to the U.S. “When the Americans get a new word they really celebrate and even the members of the public are super confident, whereas over here, we are a bit more… well… we grimace,” Carr says. “If we find a word really hard to guess, we might show it… You get a different energy from the Brits. It’s more sarcastic and cheekier, which is me and Daisy Cooper down to a tee.”
The U.K. “Password” is produced by Fremantle label Talkback. Chris O’Dell, Fremantle’s global head of production, says that the U.K. version will largely adhere to the U.S. template with “a few little bonus rules.” He describes Mangan’s role in the show as that of a “friendly policeman.”
“The temptation, especially if you are funny performers, like Alan and Daisy are, is to start acting things out, you’ve got to just be careful not to push that to the point that it becomes a miming show,” O’Dell says. “Stephen’s relationship with the two players and the contestants is friendly and fun and a bit mischievous. There’ll be a bit of comedy there — he’ll not be slow to make fun of them, if they say a stupid answer to a question or give a stupid clue to a question, of course. But ultimately, he’s there to referee the game to give us the most entertaining version of the show we can possibly have.”
“Password” is designed as a multi-season show for the U.K. “The strength of ‘Password’ as a format is it’s very returnable. The gameplay is is simple for the audience to understand. It’s great play along, it’s very universal. It’s very adaptable,” O’Dell says. “As a production, it’s a very efficient show, you can record more than one episode in a day. So that’s very attractive for both the producers and the broadcasters. And it’s the sort of show that can sit in a variety of places in the schedule and it’s a good, escapist, fun watch for an audience, which is what we try and do with all of our game shows and ‘Password’ ticks all those boxes.”
The U.K. “Password” is executive produced for Talkback by Jonno Richards and Laura Gibson with Juliet Morrish as the series producer. The series was commissioned by Joe Mace, commissioning editor at ITV and Katie Rawcliffe, head of entertainment commissioning at ITV.
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