Network takes a German ‘Bet’

Network TV’s gameshow fever shows no signs of letting up.

ABC has said “ja” to “Wetten dass…?” (Wanna Bet?), inking a deal with producer Phil Gurin (“The Weakest Link”) to develop a U.S. version of Germany’s smash variety/gameshow hybrid.

Skein has lasted for more than two decades on pubcaster ZDF. Its monthly Saturday broadcasts draw 16 million German viewers and 2 million more Swiss and Austrians — a tally ZDF said makes it the No. 1 show in both Germany and all of Europe.

Its dominance of the German market is such that the Teutonic version of “American Idol” takes the night off rather than compete against “Wetten dass…?”

Gurin recently snagged the rights to the format from ZDF, made some additions and set up the project at the Alphabet.

Sale comes in the wake of CBS’ decision to develop a new “Name That Tune” as well as a kiddie genius quizzer from “Big Brother” exec producer Allison Grodner (Daily Variety, Dec. 7). NBC launches its third quizzer, “Identity,” later this month, while ABC has two other gameshows in the works in addition to the recently launched “Show Me the Money.”

Original “Wetten dass…?” mixes celeb interviews and musical performances with segments featuring everyday Germans betting they can pull off bizarre or extraordinary stunts.

“You get these real people who claim they can do something outrageous, like being dropped onto a chair from 50 feet in the air,” Gurin said.

Celebs then bet on whether they think the person can pull off the stunt. If they lose the bet, the celebs then do something crazy themselves (e.g., Paul McCartney leading a marching band).

Details of the ABC version are still being hammered out, but the key difference will be the addition of a direct gambling element. Rather than celebs betting for fun, Gurin plans to have a team of contestants betting real coin on the outcome of the stunts.

“We’ve made it more of a gambling show rather than a variety show,” he said. “They’ll be betting their way to a big cash prize.”

Gurin said the ABC project may still involve celebs or a mix of celebs and civilians.

Either way, “It’s meant to be fun and entertaining,” he said. “The variety element comes from the kinds of stunts people do.”

This isn’t the first time “Wetten dass…?” has journeyed across the Pond. CBS, via producer Gary Grossman, did a one-time special based on the format in 1993.

“Wanna Bet?” reps the first project Gurin has sold to ABC. Much of his network work has been at NBC (“Weakest Link,” “The Miss Universe Pageant”) and Fox (“Test the Nation,” “New Year’s Eve Live”).

On the quizzer front, the Gurin Co. — which is repped by WMA — also produces GSN’s “Lingo.”

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