August 16, 2023

Mark Itkin Explains How Deal or No Deal Came to America

Everyone knows the global phenomenon that was Deal or No Deal. NBC’s big money game show fronted by Howie Mandel and 26 beautiful suitcases (and also some women holding them) swept the globe and for a while was inescapable. But have you ever wondered how Deal or No Deal showed up on our TV screens? Did you know that ABC shot a pilot for the show first before it ended up on NBC? Did you know the genesis of the entire show was because a Canadian television producer figured out he could offer $5,000,000 per episode of a theoretical game show?

The National Archives of Game Show History at the Strong Museum of Play continues to chronicle and document the history of game shows through conversations and interviews with the people who have experienced, lived, shaped, produced, and created game shows throughout the genre’s history. This month, they’ve posted an interview with Mark Itkin, an entertainment agent who specialized in “packaging” shows: assembling the talent, writers and producers of a game show and pitching them collectively. His career spans the modern era of game shows: Wordplay, Supermarket Sweep, Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, and Deal or No Deal.

Skip to 1:37:18 and hear the story about how Deal or No Deal ended up the phenomenon it is today, or watch the whole thing and learn about a very under-discussed portion of game shows: how the shows come together.