Beverly Hills- In what was perhaps the most… interesting… panel of the TCA so far (not counting Fox News… yikes) the producers of ABC’s Opportunity Knocks, including host JD Roth and Ashton Kutcher addressed the critics and reporters about their new series.
After answering questions for 10 mnutes or so, the panelists threw a curveball.
“I think the best way to understand the game is to actually play it,” Roth said, saying that they had done research on everyone in the room, and were going to play the game live (not true as it turns out… my secrets are safe for now).
They did however do research on some of the critics in the room, as Roth called TV Guide television critic (and B&Ccritics roundtable participant) Matt Roush to the stage.
Roth said that they had been snooping in his office, and proved it by showing their tour on the video screens. Roth asked Roush what was written on a cue card on his bookcase, promising baskets full of ABC swag if he got it right. He didn’t.
Next up was Brill Bundy of Zap2it. Bundy came up on stage with colleague Rick Porter and her husband, who is also a TV critic. A table full of food was wheeled out, and the two gentlemen had to guess which was Bundy’s favorite item. Rick guessed correctly (red velvet cupcakes) while her husband guessed popcorn. Whoops.
At any rate, the panel did eventually get around to talking about the show, though they were sometimes cagey about specifics.
What we did learn: they have shot a pilot, with production on the rest of the episodes beginning next week, across the entire country.
They do not come unprepared. After selecting a preliminary list of families, they do extensive research:
“We talk to their bosses, teachers, we wait for the mailman down the block,” Roth said.
In other words, the families are not totally out of the loop. They know that they are at least getting considered for the series.
“It would be weird if we just showed up and started snooping around the house,” Kutcher said.
The set is loaded on flatbed trucks a few miles away, and there are 150 production staffers. Once the family says yes, they roll in and set up shop. They knock on the family’s door in the morning, and shoot the show that evening, after the sun goes down.
So far, the neighborhoods they have reached out t have been supportive of having a mobile game show take over one of their streets.
“They want the families to win,” Roth said.
Kutcher said that when he was first pitched the idea, he tried it out with his wife, Demi Moore, and her kids by asking them questions about one another. It was that experience that convinced him that the show’s concept was a winner.
Ultimately the family is playing for a cash prize, but various prizes will be up for grabs along the way. In the pilot, the daughter was turning 16 the day of filming. So, logically, they offered her a new car if she got a question correct.
“You can see that car in your driveway, it makes it real,” Kutcher said.