Howie's New 'Deal'

Syndicated version gets makeover
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When NBC Universal's Deal or No Deal comes to syndication this fall, it will look a bit different from the primetime version viewers have come to know and love enough that it has stayed on the primetime schedule.

In syndication, the models won't open the cases—contestants waiting to play the game will—although a few models will remain on hand to help host Howie Mandel and strut around as eye candy.

The most obvious change is that the syndicated version is only a half-hour long, as opposed to the hour-long version in primetime. So there will be 22 versus 26 cases to open. Players will try to win a $250,000 prize instead of the $1 million in primetime.

All the game's significant factors—set, strategy, host—remain the same, say producers. “I don't think it's about making tweaks to make the show work better in daytime,” says David Goldberg, president and CEO of Endemol USA, the show's producer. “What's we're trying to do is make some distinctions so the two versions aren't exact facsimiles of each other.”

Besides airing in primetime in the U.S., Deal or No Deal runs in more than 80 countries, with strips broadcast in Italy, France and Spain. In those stripped versions, the contestants also open the cases, a formula that has worked because it gives the host more personalities to work with, says Scott St. John, executive producer of both U.S. shows.


“In the syndicated version, we are not going to be in the position of having every contestant's nearest and dearest involved in the show,” says St. John, who also executive produced Change of Heart and Street Smarts for Telepictures. “This allows Howie to interact with the contestants and develop relationships with them.”

Mandel is one clear consistency between both versions, a factor that Goldberg and St. John each say is invaluable. “He loves the game and thinks it's a gas,” says St. John. “That's key to his energy and excitement. That in turn instills people with that spirit of positivity and fun.”

Mandel was reportedly resistant at first to hosting both the primetime and then the syndication version of the show, but he says he later realized “I didn't want someone else to take care of my baby.”

Deal or No Deal is not Mandel's first shot at syndication. He hosted a short-lived talk show, The Howie Mandel Show, in 1998 that lasted for one season. He started his career in the early '80s as a stand-up with a schtick that involved him putting a latex glove on his head and blowing it up with his nose.

While audiences found that hilarious, it came about because Mandel has an obsessive-compulsive disorder that causes him to suffer from several phobias, including a fear of germs. He will only shake hands with contestants if he has a glove on, although he will touch knuckles with people.

“Even going out can be a challenge for me, so I take my condition seriously,” he says. “I could do without it but you need to face your fears.”


And Mandel certainly does, traveling 200 nights per year to maintain his stand-up schedule and emceeing Deal, a routine he plans to keep up once Deal's syndication version enters the mix. At the moment, the plan is to shoot 39 weeks of episodes in 39 days, taping five shows a day. St. John says it's possible to do up to eight shows in a day if the crew really gets clicking, a schedule that can shave dollars off the production budget.

So far, NBC Universal won't announce specific clearances for the show.

While Deal was somewhat of a sensation when it premiered on NBC's primetime, its performance has slowed down as the show has been moved all over the fourth-place network's schedule, jumping from Monday to Wednesday to Friday night and back to Monday again.

In its Wednesday airings this season, the show has averaged a 3.2 rating/9 share among adults 18-49, and 11.9 million viewers. On Fridays, where viewing levels are much lower, the show has averaged a 2.2/8 and 9.7 million viewers.

In early January, NBC moved the show back to Mondays, where it's airing at 9 p.m. after American Gladiators. There, it did a 3.6/8 and 10.7 million viewers. The show's best performance came during the week of June 5, 2006, when it was the No. 1 show for the week among both adults 18-49 and total viewers.