Return of the game show challenges reality TV in ratings war

A few years ago, the game show looked to be dead on its feet. Despite a brief revival with the success of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?, the tanks of reality television were rapidly encroaching its lawn.

Then Noel Edmonds' Deal Or No Deal came along, and suddenly the formula for surefire TV hits was back in business.

At this week's annual MIPTV international television sales fair, broadcasters from around the world will be looking for new game-show formats hoping to emulate the success that Channel 4 and Endemol have enjoyed with Deal Or No Deal. It was nominated for a Bafta for Edmonds last week.

One of the hottest properties up for grabs is another Endemol show, Take It Or Leave It.

British broadcasters are lining up to bid for the programme. ITV is believed to be particularly keen to acquire the new format, after missing out to Channel 4, which scooped Deal Or No Deal. If successful, it could fill the teatime slot recently vacated by the chat-show host Paul O'Grady, who defected to Channel 4.

ITV demonstrated its revived interest in game shows last month when it commissioned The Con.Test a new format based on poker devised by its star presenters Ant and Dec.

"There's a lot of hype around the new Endemol format, Take It or Leave It, as ITV is still smarting from turning down Deal Or No Deal and needs something big to replace O'Grady," said one industry insider.

The show features two couples competing for a big money prize, in a quiz to reach vaults of hidden cash. They must then "take or leave" vaults in their search for the box with the accumulated cash.

Take It Or Leave It is the brainchild of Kirsten van Nieuwenhuizen and Mark van Berkel, two former Endemol employees who left the company four years ago to concentrate on dreaming up new multi-media concepts under the punning banner Intellygents. The game show was successfully pioneered on the Italian television channel RAI last summer and has just launched in the Netherlands on NL2. The format has also been sold to Telecino in Spain, where the first series will launch later this year.

Endemol is now hoping the quiz will follow in the footstep of Deal Or No Deal, which has been sold to 45 countries worldwide including the US, where it is a prime-time hit for NBC.

Ed Louwerse, Endemol's director of international sales, said: "This has huge potential as an international format. Game shows are currently going through an world-wide renaissance and we're looking to turn Take It Or Leave It into another global hit."

Taking advantage of the current game-show fever, Celador which makes Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?, announced last week that it is selling the rights to the international hit.

Paul Smith, the chairman, explained that he was selling theprogramme, fronted by Chris Tarrant, as part of an 18-month exit and succession strategy. He has steered the company to success and has been at the helm for more than 20 years.

Come on down!

* The US version of The Price is Right is the longest-running game show in history, dating back to 1956

* The longest-running game show in the UK is University Challenge, which has been on air for more than 35 years.

* Countdown was the first show broadcast on Channel four, and has recorded more episodes than any other game show.

* US game shows were rocked by a series of scandals in the 1950s, when it was revealed that producers had given the answers to selected contestants on shows including The $64,000 Question.

* In 2003, Major James Ingram, was sentenced to 18 months in prison and fined £15,000 after being found guilty of cheating his way to the top prize in Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.

* American game show producer Chuck Barris - who invented the original formats for Blind Date and Mr and Mrs - claimed in his autobiography to have moonlighted as a CIA assassin responsible for over 100 murders.

* The first British game show to run five times a week was Blockbusters, which was launched in 1983.

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