NBC plays mind games

Peacock greenlights prod'n on quizzer

Ben Silverman, exec producer of “Ugly Betty” and “The Office,” is assuming a new “Identity” for NBC.

Peacock is fast-tracking production on a Silverman-produced quizzer to be hosted by Penn Jillette. NBC will roll out “Identity,” which it’s calling “the ultimate mind game,” over a five-night frame the week before Christmas.

“In politics, you’ve got the October surprise. We’ve got the December surprise,” said Peacock alternative topper Craig Plestis, referring to the network’s decision to launch “Identity” as a weeknight strip during the holidays. Web used an identical strategy to grand success last winter when it kicked off “Deal or No Deal.”

“Identity,” from Silverman’s Reveille banner, is an original format in which contestants compete for $500,000 by matching 12 strangers with a dozen unique characteristics, from shoe size and weight to career.

Contestants collect the full half-million if they correctly match up the strangers with their “identities.”

Andrew Golder (“Win Ben Stein’s Money”), Tim Puntillo (“Friend or Foe”), Silverman and H.T. Owens exec produce.

“I don’t consider this a pure gameshow,” Plestis said. “It’s more of a mind game or social experiment.”

Silverman calls the format a “game of first impressions,” challenging contestants to move past preconceived notions of people based on looks.

“If there are already a lot of shows that deal in luck and chance, this is a show that plays in the psychological space,” he said. “It adds a level of sophistication while maintaining simplicity in the format.”

With little fanfare, Silverman said he and his international sales force have already sold the “Identity” format to Network Ten in Oz, as well as stations in several other markets.

Plestis, who has already launched the successful “Deal or No Deal” and “1 vs. 100” with Endemol USA this year, said he wasn’t looking to develop another quizzer when Silverman approached him about “Identity.” He agreed to play a sample version of the game, however.

“It felt 100% different than any other gameshow,” he said, adding the skein has a strong play-along format for viewers at home, as well as a family-friendly format.

“People at home want to have that bonding experience, especially during the holidays,” Plestis said.

“Identity” will bow at 8 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 18, with new episodes airing every night at 8 through Dec. 22.

Jillette, half of the comedy-magic duo Penn & Teller, co-hosts “Penn & Teller: Bullshit!” for Showtime.

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