Jeopardy is in its 28th season. The Wheel of Fortune has been spinning for 29 years. Families have been Feuding for 35 years. The Price has been Right for a whopping 39 years. In the last decade and a half shows like Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, The Weakest Link and (regrettably) Deal or No Deal have captured the collective consciousness of the viewing public for fleeting moments of time. The American game show landscape needs a Bob-Barker-level face lift and I have just the game to yank the skin folds back: Erotic Photo Hunt*.
*A huge tip of the hat to Sexy Boston Sports' Head Gamer Sadie Sloe Gin, whose love of this game inspired my idea. Her love runs so deep that she tried to get me to go to the townie bar this past Sunday at 1 PM to play EPH all day...
For those who don't know, EPH is a bar game played on those little computer screens you may find at your local watering hole. Traditional Photo Hunt is a game that presents the player with two photos side by side that are almost identical save for 5 subtle differences that the player (or players) have to point out before time runs out (you also get 3 hints to use throughout your game). If you get all 5 before time runs out you move onto the next round. The Shyamalan twist in Erotic Photo Hunt is that the pictures are of scantily or not at all clad babes (or you can choose hunks, but I don't think I've ever seen someone play that version). And not only are the girls in the pictures naked, they are all from the 80's and 90's! That means banana boobs, crimped hair and high waist bikinis!!!
If you've never played before you might think this is a stupid idea. How do you turn a game where people just sit around and poke at a computer screen into the next great game show? The first answer is obvious, the second not so much.
First and foremost, sex sells. The women in these pictures may not all be "10s" but they are barely wearing any clothes and the ones that are less than perfect are hilariously less than perfect. The key here is to pitch it to a network that will uphold the integrity of the "Erotic" piece of Erotic Photo Hunt. If this were to end up on a network like CBS they'd probably use pictures of Molly from Mike and Molly or "hilarious" cross dressing photos of one of the nerds from Big Bang Theory. No thanks. As you can tell from the title we are making a full court press for HBO. If they pass we will go to Cinnemax, Showtime and Starz and even the Playboy Channel if we have to. A last resort is Spike TV, though that takes away the nudity, and therefore, half the fun.
Again, if you haven't played this game, you probably won't realize the second reason why this could absolutely work as a TV show: the intensity. Unless you are Creed Bratton you probably don't play EPH alone. Aside from the fact that it is really hard to play well by yourself, it is way more fun to play with a couple friends. When the pictures appear on screen, the clock starts to run and the mood gets tense (you get progressively less time as you advance through the rounds). Everybody locks in on the screen, eyes darting back and forth, trying to spot the differences. Sometimes one player can dominate a round by reeling off three or four differences really quickly. Other times it takes a last second lunge forward to point out a missing bra strap on the right. There is pushing, shoving, laughing, yelling, grunting and, best of all, camaraderie. With the right production, the sex appeal and excitement should blend perfectly.
So now that you understand the game and why it has the components of entertaining programming, how do we turn it into a successful game show?
First we need a format for the show, including the rules and how the show will look on screen. Starting with the rules, this should be a game between two teams of four people. Having played more EPH than I care to admit in my life, I can tell you four people seems to be a sweet spot for a team (three makes it too difficult and five makes it too crowded). And with each team I figure we could add a little Amazing Race and/or Family Fued elements. In other words, the teams would be comprised of alike people, whether that is families like on the Feud or like some of the more stereotyped teams on Amazing Race. Imagine an EPH bout between little people and very big people, Republicans and Democrats, Red Sox fans and Yankees fans, grannies and trannies or amputees with no right arm versus amputees with no left arm. The possibilities are endless.
The best way that a head to head game would work would be each team playing the same pictures at the same time, but I’m not sure this would photograph well. A good alternative would be different rounds with increasing degrees of difficulty that include not only lesser time to figure out a picture but also more difficult picutres. I am thinking each team would solve three pictures in a row per round before the next team takes a crack at three pictures so there is some continuity. Instead of getting 3 hints, like in the bar version, teams would get no hints, but for each difference they spot they would get a point. So if you only get 3 out of 5 differences in one round you would get 3 points. That way we can have a designated number of rounds, let’s say four, and at the end we tally up the points and the team with the most points wins. If we want to make it more exciting, we can even have a final round of one picture each with double or triple points so a team can make a late comeback OR have a final bonus round like Wheel or Feud in which the winning team gets to increase their winnings.
Since this is a TV show we need to think about how to make it visually enticing. The first part (women with no clothes) is taken care of for us, but how do we show these women while also capturing the drama of the game? The easy fix for this is a split screen. On one of the two screens (probably one on top of another rather than side by side) you would have the puzzle at hand so that viewers at home can play along or…play along, if you know what I mean. On the other screen we would have a shot of the team playing so we can capture the ups and downs of emotions on camera. If we want to get innovative, when the show makes it “On Demand” we can offer a version that only shows the players playing that you could synch to an iPad app that shows the game in progress that you could actually play along with! Imagine EPH in the palm of your hand (assuming the palm of your hand is free)!
Finally, I think the hallmark of any great game show is its host. Shows like Jeopardy, Wheel of Fortune, and Price is Right have made it through long runs with primarily the same hosts (Wheel started with Chuck Woolery and PIR is now captained by Drew Carey), while Family Feud has had to cycle through hosts with varying degrees of success. Deal or No Deal had a crazy amount of success, but I believe it was fleeting because Howie Mandel makes people want to staple their eyes and ears shut before realizing even that isn't enough to keep Howie out and they have to tragically take their lives. So clearly, choosing a host is very important. I elicited the help of Sadie Sloe Gin (also our Chief Talent Coordinator) to come up with the perfect host. We talked about fallen actors (Corey Feldman), fallen comedians (Jon Lovitz), retired game show hosts (Bob Barker who at this point is a bad boob job away from looking like Joan Rivers), whorish ex-rappers who will put their names on anything (Ice Cube) and even one still famous actor that seemingly will do anything for a pay check (Nic Cage). The decision seemed difficult until we were watching one of our favorite shows the other night and he was staring us right in the face and Sadie said the two magic words: Joey Greco (of the show Cheaters).
Mr. Greco does yeomans work hosting Cheaters, a program where he shows one member of a couple footage of the other member of the couple cheating on him or her before the cheatee and Greco go to confront the cheater. As you can imagine, Greco has been involved in more physical altercations that Jerry Springer, including one time being stabbed by one of the cheaters! His badassery is only outweighed by his calming command of a program with the subtleties of sleaze we would need to set the perfect mood for EPH. His delivery may be off putting at first, but as you watch him work, whether it is on Cheaters or EPH, you slowly realize that Joey Greco is the man for the job.
With incredible programs like Boardwalk Empire coming back to HBO and Larry David ruling the comedic world on Curb Your Enthusiasm, HBO has a lot on its plate at the moment. But with Entourage going off the air, rumors that Treme sucked this season and True Blood definitely sucking this season, there may be some openings soon. Since there are no interesting game shows to speak of these days, the time has come for HBO to get in on the game with Erotic Photo Hunt. With the right production and the perfect host, this show could be a huge success. Of course, if no network is willing to pick it up we can just run it on cable access and still probably get Joey Greco.