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Retro quizzer rolls at NBC

Povich set to host show

NBC has greenlit a new version of the 1950s gameshow “Twenty One,” recruiting gabber Maury Povich to serve as host of the reincarnated quizzer.

Peacock had ordered four hourlong segs of the skein which will air over the course of two weeks, starting Sunday, Jan. 9, at 8 p.m. Remaining segs will air Jan. 12, 16 and 19 at 8 p.m. The net has an option to quickly move forward with more episodes if the first four show signs of ratings strength.

The new “Twenty One” will be produced by NBC Studios in association with the Fred Silverman Co. and the Gurin Co. Povich will continue to host his Studios USA talker “Maury,” having secured permission from the studio to host the quiz show.

NBC moves fast

NBC, which just last week was being cagey about whether the show would get on the air, is now moving quickly to jump on the gameshow bandwagon. The premiere date for “Twenty One” is two days before ABC’s smash “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” returns Jan. 11.

CBS is expected to announce a launch sked for its new gamer “Winning Lines” soon, with a January bow a strong possibility given the competitive environment.

“Twenty One” will displace regularly skedded segs of “Dateline NBC” on four nights. If the skein is expanded to a regular run, it’s likely at least one of the current five weekly “Dateline” segs could be cut.

As in the original 1950s version, the new “Twenty One” will have two contestants face off in soundproof isolation booths in a race to see who can snag 21 points by answering various questions.

Live unlikely

NBC had wanted to air the new version live, but tech problems proved impossible to overcome in time for the launch. Peacock sources say that in success, a switch to a live format is still a possibility.

Unlike the original version, there will be no prize limit for contestants — winners will be able to win millions of dollars up until the point they’re beaten by a challenger. Players will bag $10,000 for each point they score, up to $210,000, per game; their final per-game winnings will be based on their score minus the score of their opponent.

New version will also include a multiple choice format, a lightning and a Web component. Skein will originate from NBC’s Burbank studios, with a live orchestra expected to be part of the show.

Povich said he has a fond feeling for both NBC and “Twenty One,” noting the original “was a show I remember watching when I was growing up. I was disappointed when the taint of scandal” ended its run.

‘Exciting’ prospect

The veteran, whose talker “Maury” experienced the largest year-to-year aud gain of any syndie talkshow during the November sweeps, says the revival in gameshows is “exciting” to watch. The genre, he said, “is wholesome and yet offers (viewers) a whole sense of drama.”

He’s not worried about too many gameshows flooding the market. “Like anything else in television, it’ll work until it doesn’t work anymore,” he said.

NBC Entertainment prexy Garth Ancier said landing Povich was a key part of greenlighting “Twenty One.”

“He’s the perfect host for it,” the Peacock exec said. “We wanted someone who’s a real broadcaster and who could also bring a real gravitas to the show.”

Contestant searches have already started, with NBC set to interview potential players in Chicago on Saturday and Memphis on Dec. 18. A toll-free hotline will be set up to allow would-be players to express their interest in the show; they’ll then have to pass a 15-question phone test to score a tryout for the game.

The first “Twenty One,” hosted Jack Barry, bowed in September 1956 and ended in October 1958 after being caught up in the national gameshow scandals examined in the pic “Quiz Show.”

Povich’s deal was brokered by Alan Berger of Artists Management Group.

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