EP Vin Rubino Talks About The Chase S2 Changes
The showrunner sits down with Cory to talk about pacing, money and Mark Labbett.
Cory Anotado, BuzzerBlog: The Chase, I think, is to me, one of the trivia equivalents of The $100,000 Pyramid. It’s a game that’s been airing on UK TV for, you know, 150,000 years at this point, and they have it down to a science. Knowing a few things: 1, that ITV had already brought it to American shores and it was surprisingly successful, for being on a cable network, it was very well received; and two, the fact that we knew to a point it was going to come on with these big Jeopardy guys, they’re going to be the chasers; And three, for me personally, having been a contestant on the original GSN Chase, I had pretty high hopes. One of the major complaints of the first season of The Chase on ABC was the pacing, that the game felt slower than what people expected it to be if they had expectations. But if they didn’t have expectations, they just felt that the game was kind of slow. Was that was that an intentional choice on the producer’s part, or was that more of the host, trying to find her groove and and it just falling flat of what people expected?
Vin Rubino, EP, The Chase: It was a combination of things. One, when you talk about The Chase on GSN, that was for a very focused game show audience. Those are full-on gamers. On a network for a primetime show, you’re gonna have that audience, but you also have a mainstream audience that isn’t familiar with it. And it means [you have to slow down] that blinding speed—and it can be, that’s the most exciting part, especially the Final Chase. However, when you’re when you’re bringing a show in for primetime, I think you has to be cognizant that [that pace] can get to be a little dizzying for people when it goes that fast. Also, this is [host] Sara [Haines]’s first swing at it as well. There’s 160 questions an episode, a lot to get through. She wanted to be very cautious that people at home can understand that, but most importantly, the people in the studio can understand her. We’ve made a conscious decision to that. I don’t want her to be super blazing fast. It needed to have some clarity to it.
And the other thing is, the GOATs from Jeopardy! are so held up so high in this country, there’s super smart, which is why we made the Cash Builder $25,000 for a correct answer, so that you want them to have a bank even if they get 2 or 3 right. Remember that, in the UK it’s a daily show, for a lot less money. It’s like their Jeopardy! on some level. So it was a bit of balance. In retrospect, $25,000 may have been too high. But there was a balance that had to happen with speed versus the money. Americans like watching people play for million dollars at the end of the game. Having people watch an hour of show to play for $30,000; it doesn’t feel like it has enough weight to it.
So there’s so many mitigating factors in this show: timing, money values, speed, and difficulty—trying to balance all of those things. And I think we got it quite—I’m not saying perfectly, the first season. But I will tell you this, the second season, we made the necessary changes. We brought the Cash Builder down to $10,000 for a correct answer and it moves a lot faster in that regard, and it is far, far more dynamic.
But again, we’re trying to do is we’re trying to introduce this to a primetime audience. We didn’t touch the format in any way; we just pulled a few levers here and there, I knew the gamers were going to be furious over some things. But at the end of the day, you’re making it for a different audience. We’ll get to where it has to go. I trust this format. I didn’t want to mess with the format too much. There were a lot of things they wanted to try, and I kept saying, no, I don’t want to do that.
We brought the Cash Builder down to $10,000 for a correct answer and it moves a lot faster in that regard, and it is far, far more dynamic.
One of the things they did do was touch the Cash Builder money, but what we found is if you go up against Ken Jennings, if you go to the board with $60,000, no one’s gonna take the high offer, right? If you have three people who make 60, 40 and 20, so now they’re playing for $120,000.
It felt very unsatisfying. We had one person last season take the high offer, because we made the Cash Builder too high—with the idea of Ken Jennings, James or Brad, There’s no way they’re gonna do it. The one guy that did, it was kind of a little crazy. He crashed and burned. But it’s not the case, this time around. We’ve had some amazing, amazing episodes. And that’s the other thing too, we only get nine episodes last season, Right? We got into it, and just as we hit our groove, we’re done!
Now, and I said this to Sara when we started, I had some fights with Standards and Practices with this: I wanted to be able to let her read the [game question] material of the day or the night before. They’re very restrictive about material. So she’s able to read things at night, but it’s all secured; it’s not allowed to be on paper, she can go over but then she can’t see it again, but all of those factors changed and with 14 episodes down, I can tell you season two is so far above what season one was, as it should be! Because this is the second time this team is into this. And the last few episodes we just shot yesterday that were just off the charts. A Plus. I grade everything. A pluses yesterday, I expected more.
Cory, you’re right to talk about the format. There’s nothing wrong with criticizing what happened with season one. At the end of the day, I’m very proud of what we put together. Was it absolutely perfect? No, but it’s a part of evolving this format and growing it for primetime audiences. I can take the notes, but it has to be measured [appropriate against the UK version] because they’re working with a show they do on a daily basis. And they play for a lot less money. It’s a different vibe there. It’s a country full of trivia people. It’s a much more of a thing that I did in the United States. There’s a balance. And [SVP of alternative programming at ABC] Rob Mills, to his credit, it was his idea from the get go. He called me and he said, “the Jeopardy guys are great, let’s put them on The Chase. What do you think?” It’s a great idea.
And [the Jeopardy GOATs] are just amazing. They really are kind of like machines. But they know the game, they understood it, and they knew their role to play. I do nothing with them other than say, play your role; play the role of The Chaser.
Yeah. I’m glad that Rob Mills checks the tweets that I tweet at him to say, Hey, bring the chase on ABC. I’m glad he reads those. Now he’s he’s a he’s a true friend of gameshows. Like, We’ve interviewed him a couple of times. And definitely, I think, more than anyone in his executive level on television, does anyone understand game shows like Rob Mills.
Also, as a television programmer, [game shows are] the only thing that is truly interactive and sticky. All the streamers are trying to figure out how to do it. That’s what draws people in to stay.
So yeah, I think you hit a lot of the the comments that I think a lot of people made—to lower the Cash Builder to $10,000, and to increase the speed of the game would definitely introduce a little more risk taking involved in the offers on the board. Because, you know, just like you said, we noted that when you have that vast amount of money on the table, the money that you earn in the Cash Builder is enough to change your life. So why risk even more to go up against, so it’s nice that that balance is there. What was the rationale for inviting the Beast [Mark Labbett, one of the original UK Chasers] to the show for Season 2?
Rob Mills, [VP of Alternate Series & Specials at ABC] Tiffany Faigus and I had discussed using Mark “The Beast“ Labbett from the very beginning of Season 1, since he is the original Chaser and has done well over 600 episodes in multiple international markets. The Beast has been an iconic centerpiece of The Chase worldwide, and especially for fans in the US who were introduced to him on the successful GSN version. But the decision was made to launch the show in prime time on ABC featuring the GOATs from Jeopardy! as The Chasers. In success, we had always planned to add The Beast to add to our formidable team of Chasers, given his pedigree and world renowned level of quiz genius. Mark has proven to be an incredibly entertaining and powerful player on the primetime version of The Chase and he fits in perfectly alongside Ken, James & Brad. The Beast is back…and he is neither kinder or gentler, but genius. Just like the original UK version, we plan to add to our strong team of Chasers in future seasons.
The Chase will return for Season 2 on Sunday, June 6 at 9/8c. This interview was edited for length and clarity.