September 23, 2014

Review: Celebrity Name Game

Game shows should strive to be as fun, engaging, and enjoyable as Celebrity Name Game.

I don’t know the last time I’ve enjoyed watching a game show as much as Celebrity Name Game. It had just about everything I look for in a good format: I’m shouting at the screen, I’m laughing, I’m having fun, and it was nerve wracking and exciting at the end. I’ve also not seen a game show as solid directly out-of-the-gate as Celebrity Name Game. Fremantle continues to be one of the few companies to consistently make a good game and show.

The game couldn’t be simpler. A team of two, partnered with a celebrity, try to describe the names of famous people, places, or things within a time limit. In round one each answer is worth $100, and round two is $200 a name. The third round sees the civilian contestants buzz in to answer clues described by host Craig Ferguson, starting at $100 an answer and going up by that much each new name. The first team to $3,000 wins and plays the end game, where the contestants must get the two celebrities to get ten names in the time limit to win $20,000.

Huge credit to the show’s fun has to be given to host Craig Ferguson. He plays the game show host role well, but he keeps it loose and incredibly funny. He’s very Steve Harvey-like in his ability to mix being a comedian and a host, and that’s very rare and a very good thing. Not to mention, if you saw the first episode featuring celebrities Mena Suvari and Joely Fisher, it’s very refreshing to see a host care as much about the contestants as he does, and to get as excited for them. We don’t see that a lot these days and it’s nice.

The game is fast and fun which is a constant problem with the current crop of games. It moves but it never feels too fast. You get the fun and comedy of the game mixed with an incredible amount of game play. Not to mention it’s nice to see a show throw around a bit of money and give teams a decent shot at winning a big prize like $20,000. That’s another thing that doesn’t happen too often recently.

The one evident thing, though, is that a show like Celebrity Name Game will have a shelf life. We see it with Pyramid and classic Password which are dated and don’t really work today. Things are going to get a bit stale eventually but they’ve got a ton of time before that happens and the format isn’t as rigid as the other two as to not allow alterations.

The only other thing is that, of course, if you’re not incredibly up to date on pop culture, you’re screwed. The episodes so far haven’t had anyone that forces you to know TMZ-level pop culture, but if you’re someone who doesn’t care about this sort of thing, there’s not a ton of a reason to watch. Luckily they had different items beyond celebrity names, such as restaurants and locations. And this isn’t a criticism of the show. You know what you’re getting into with it. Sports Jeopardy! will have the same issue, and there’s not been many targeted quiz shows to work out on a large scale. Hopefully this breaks this trend.

There’s not a lot to not like on Celebrity Name Game. Craig Ferguson is great and funny, the show is fun and hard to not play along with, it looks authentic and enjoyable, and it’s just a solid game. Beyond throwing a few curve balls into the mix eventually and changing up some rounds to keep it fresh, it’s got about everything you’d need.