Known for his atypical, non-formulaic approach to his after-midnight talker, Ferguson told journalists in a telephone press conference that he’s taking a similar approach to “Name Game,” and isn’t sticking to any established format or canned atmosphere.
“I felt that when we were most successful in the late-night show, it was lovingly trashing the conventions of it,” he said, A big draw of “Name Game,” he said, was its simplicity and openness to allow “enough breathing room and enough room for me to kind of experiment and grow inside of it.”
Ferguson has been on-board the show since 2011, where it was originally designed as an hour-long for CBS from Courteney Cox and David Arquette’s production banner, Coquette Productions. The network ultimately passed, and the show eventually resurfaced with Debmar-Mercury and FremantleMedia North America and found a home on Tribune Broadcasting stations.
The game show pits celebs and contestants competing for up to $20,000 in pop-culture quiz games based on the board game “Identity Crisis,” a factor that played well for Ferguson, who said he likes that the game has not been done on TV before. “If you take a game like “Jeopardy” or “Wheel of Fortune,” they are games that have been played for years and years and years, and people know the format and love the format and don’t want you messing with the format. So the game is the thing.”
Ferguson has already filmed around 100 episodes of the show, which bows Sept. 22, and has racked up an impressive list of celebrity competitors, including Lisa Kudrow, Sheryl Crow, Vivica Fox, Cheryl Burke, Luke Perry and Darren Criss. Of course, Ferguson has made sure that Cox and Arquette have signed on to play a few times, as well.
“Audiences like seeing the humanizing effect of somebody being informal, because once you’re playing a game it’s a little more difficult to remain aloof,” he said. “If you’re playing beer pong or ‘Celebrity Name Game,’ it’s difficult to maintain that sort of grand distance.”
He enjoys the show’s potential for disaster — as far as goofs go – and said he was shocked at the varying levels of pop-culture knowledge. Some contestants surprised him with how much they knew of celebrities, and others with how little. “It’s a really interesting generational thing to watch — if, for example, someone under the age of 30 gets a clue that the answer is Alfred Hitchcock.”
In prepping for the new hosting job, Ferguson said that he only briefly took a look at fellow game show personalities — he says he’s more looking forward to developing his own style. “I don’t know if it happens in the first 10 shows or the first 100 shows, but, hopefully, eventually you find a voice which is yours.”
That said, he isn’t looking to become the next longest-running game show host.
“If you know anything about me, and the recent news will confirm it, I don’t want to do anything for 30 years,” he admitted. “A 10-year run in late-night is long enough for me and 10 years of doing this, if we should be so lucky, will be just fine. I don’t want to do it forever.”
“Celebrity Name Game” premieres tonight. Check local listings.