- Justin Scroggie
Should Michael Macintyre host 'The Wheel' stateside himself?
When BBC celebrity gameshow format “The Wheel” lands on NBC, British creator and host Michael Macintyre will be presenting the US adaptation himself. Is that a good idea?
Michael McIntyre is the king of trivial observation. And though he is happy to ponder the quirks and foibles of his fellow human beings, his primary target is himself (‘Pierce Brosnan with a mouthful of sweets’). He is self-deprecating, he is funny, he is ‘nice’.
Which is, after all, what US viewers have traditionally wanted from their TV hosts. Nice Drew Carey. Nice Bob Barker. Nice Alex Trebek. But do they want ‘nice’ from a Brit?
As Sir Ben Kingsley says in Jaguar’s 2014 Superbowl ad:
“Have you ever noticed how, in Hollywood movies, all the villains are played by Brits?”
Alan Rickman in Die Hard. Anthony Hopkins in Silence of the Lambs. Jeremy Irons in ... Die Hard. “Maybe we just sound right”, says actor Mark Strong in the ad. Bond-hopeful Tom Hiddleston chimes in: “We’re more focused. More precise.” Strong agrees: “We're always one step ahead.” “With a certain style; an eye for detail”, says Kingsley. “And,” Strong helpfully remarks, “we all drive Jaguars.”
The British villain may be a trope, but it seems to be borne out in unscripted television too. Especially when Brits travel with their show to host them over the pond.
Anne Robinson famously brought her dominatrix school-teacher to NBC’s “The Weakest Link”. As The Chicago Tribune put it: “With icy sarcasm, mostly tongue-in-cheek disdain for stupidity, Darth Vader-like full-length black outfits, and her signature phrase ‘You are the weakest link, goodbye!’ she elevates the show”.
Gordon Ramsay certainly elevated his shouty sweary persona for US version of “Kitchen Nightmares” on Fox. As the Washington Post wrote: “The thrill of watching Mr. Ramsay is in witnessing someone so at peace with his own arrogance.” Which perfectly describes ‘Early Simon’ or pre-parenthood Cowell’.
SuperNanny Jo Frost is not exactly a villain. But her bossy Mary Poppins-meets-Nurse-Ratched persona was definitely not ‘nice’. Nanny knows best.
As the old guards of American TV retire, die, or get their own series on Netflix, they are being replaced by younger edgier stand-ups, SNL alumni, comedy actors. But while they are less apple-pie, they are hardly villainous.
So can ‘nice’ Michael McIntyre cross the pond without turning to the dark side? He has said that he doesn’t like upsetting people. So will he conquer America (a stated ambition of his) with his relentless good humour and self-mockery, or will the audience wait for him to ‘eliminate’ contestants as only a British bad-guy can?
However, there is another issue with his decision.
As Dick de Rijk, creator of “Deal or No Deal”, once said:
“If you can’t change the host, it isn’t a format.”
By tying the British host to the foreign export, the distributor is signalling that this is a talent-led format - it is after all laboriously titled “Michael McIntyre’s The Wheel”. And talent-led formats don’t sell half as well as ones with easily interchangeable hosts.
Furthermore, while US success can accelerate formats sales, an early flop in America tends to send a nervous shudder through all those licensing deals. Many creators prefer to consolidate their format elsewhere, before entering the brutal world of US network TV.
For now, though, we wish Michael, and The Wheel, all the very best. Because every success Stateside is a win for creators over here.