Nina Etspüler, group creative director at Red Arrow Studios, talks to World Screen Newsflash about the British game-show format A League of Their Own, which is poised to make its debut on CBS in the U.S. under the title Game On!
The British game-show format A League of Their Own is poised to make its debut on CBS in the U.S., where it will be titled Game On! The high-energy panel show blends sports, comedy and entertainment, and it’s on its 14th season in the U.K. The format, sold by Red Arrow Studios International, follows a fairly traditional quiz-show structure: two teams of three (each captained by a famous athlete) compete for points that are awarded for correct answers; after three rounds—the last of which includes physical challenges like sumo wrestling—the team with the most points wins.
“Taking its cue from sports fans’ obsession with lists and statistics, every week celebrity guests join team regulars as they battle it out across numerous riotous rounds of sporting challenges, building up to a large-scale physical end game,” Nina Etspüler, group creative director at Red Arrow Studios, tells TV Formats Weekly.
Although the series was originally developed for the U.K. market, it was always ripe for traveling, given its cross-cultural themes. “Sports and entertainment are universal concepts, and the series blends both in an original, comedic way, which attracts a really broad demographic,” says Etspüler. Though sports-centered shows can often cater to the male audience, A League of Their Own was developed to appeal to both male and female viewers. “The comedic nature of the show means you don’t have to be a full-on sports fan to enjoy watching it; it’s perfect prime-time family entertainment,” Etspüler adds.
The format itself is flexible, scalable and available in both 30- and 60-minute versions, the latter of which has bigger challenges, both in studio and on location. There’s a huge catalog of challenges that Red Arrow Studios International has for the series, and they satisfy a wide range of budgets and studio sizes in order to accommodate the format’s globe-trotting. Denmark’s Kanal 5 was one of the first to adapt the format; Red Arrow Studios-owned Snowman Productions produced five seasons of the Danish version under the local name 5 Halvleg. RedSeven Entertainment, also a Red Arrow Studios company, produces a local iteration in Germany, where so far three seasons have been made for Sky 1 (local title: Eine Liga für sich—Buschis Sechserkette).
The series’ latest—and perhaps most exciting—deal though, is the one recently brokered with CBS for the U.S. edition, set to be hosted by Emmy- and Peabody Award-winning actor, writer and producer Keegan-Michael Key. Tennis star Venus Williams and New England Patriots Super Bowl champion Rob Gronkowski are on board to serve as team captains. (The original U.K. version is hosted by James Corden, with cricketer Freddie Flintoff and footballer Jamie Redknapp serving as team captains.) Game On! will be produced by Eye Productions and Fulwell 73 Productions—which makes Corden’s The Late Late Show—with CPL Productions, the U.K. outfit that created the series. “We are hugely excited about the U.S. show—as sport is such a big part of U.S. culture, we think it will translate really well in that market,” says Etspüler.
In order for the format to translate successfully, though, and to ensure that it draws in audience members from various demographics, it must continue to toe the line between comedy and sports and satisfy viewers who are drawn in by both or either of those elements. “Casting is key to making the format work,” Etspüler says. “It’s important that producers stick to the right blend of comedians and sports stars to ensure the balance between comedy and sports content is right, and the result should always be a high-energy entertainment show.”
In addition to the format’s various international adaptations, spin-off series have been produced. CPL has made two of them so far: A League of Their Own: US Road Trip and A League of Their Own: European Road Trip, the latter of which Sky has commissioned for a second season that began airing this month.
The format is also perfect to accompany major sporting events, Etspüler contends, and this year is a particularly big one for sports, with the Tokyo Summer Olympics and the EURO 2020 football tournament both expected to draw huge audiences. “The series is a timely acquisition for a broadcaster’s 2020 schedule,” she says.