Guy Fieri interview, Minute to Win It back July 7
By April MacIntyre Jul 6, 2010, 5:04 GMT
Past Food Star winner - Guy Fieri - FL, USA © Jay Kravetz / PR Photos
NBC’s popular competition show “Minute to Win It,” will unveil the new “Million Dollar Mission” when it returns this summer beginning Wednesday, July 7 (8-9 p.m. ET).
One audience member will be able to participate in the “Million Dollar Mission,” and be able to bypass levels 1 through 9 and immediately compete at level 10 for $1million. The million-dollar game is “Supercoin,” where in a minute’s time a contestant must bounce coins off of a table and into the narrow opening of a five-gallon water jug 15 feet away.
NBC reveals that the new episodes will also feature a variety of competitors including; twin sisters who’ll take turns competing at each level; a married couple that will compete for cash for their dream wedding; and a mom and recent graduate who will team up together for the big prize.
Games include "Candelier," in which the contestant must stack five levels of cans, starting with one can on the bottom and finishing with five cans on the top, with a paper plate in between each level; "Octopus," in which they must remove a ribbon from an upside-down Fiji bottle -- without knocking the bottle over; and "Tweeze Me," where the contestant must use a tweezer to maneuver a Tic Tac breath mint through the spaces in a tennis racket -- and land it in a cup on the other side.
"Minute to Win It," hosted by All-American chef and television personality Guy Fieri ("Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives"), features competitors participating in a series of simple, yet nerve-wracking, games that can lead to a $1 million prize.
In each one-hour episode, competitors face 10 challenges that escalate in level of difficulty using everyday household items. Each game has a one-minute time limit and failure to finish the task on time will eliminate the contestant.
At various points throughout the game, the competitor can walk away with the money earned up to that point - but it'll take nerves of steel to complete all 10 tasks to win $1 million. The competitors, who come from all walks of life, are shown several games prior to the competition and are encouraged to practice these one-of-a-kind challenges at home.
Guy Fieri spoke to reporters a week ago about the NBC show.
On what gives him inspiration:
Guy Fieri: I always try to draw from people that have been successful at it because, you know, they had some magic about it. And, you know, a buddy of mine Drew Carey - I was at “Price Is Right” watching him do his show and this is right when I was getting my shot with NBC and he said, “You know what,” he said, “my best advice is just be you.” He said, “That’s what got you here.” He said, “You know, you just go out and do it.”
So I always try to stay true to myself, you know, but can’t help but remember all of the great game shows, Richard Dawson, Chuck Barris, you know, of course, then you look at Drew and you look at what Howie did and so forth. So I - you just naturally there’s influence from other folks.
I’m just kind of bringing what my mom and dad packed my bags with and it’s, I think it’s doing good. I think people are really enjoying it. But, no, I’m not trying to emulate or trying to be any one particular person that I watched. But you got to know that they all had an influence one way or another.
On the common denominator between your Food Network shows and this one:
Guy Fieri: Well, on “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives,” that has a very, in my opinion, a very similar component because it’s just people. People are the common denominator here. And people in unique situations. Although the folks on “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives” aren’t winning any money, you’re putting them and their food and their restaurant right in the spotlight and it can just be - I mean it just can rattle them.
You know, at least the people on “Minute to Win It” are doing something, they’re doing a physical activity can kind of distract them a little bit. So there’s a lot of similarity in that sense. There’s the folks at NBC are really generous to me in letting me kind of freewheel where I’m going.
I have set pinpoints that I’ve got to go to, topic matter that I have to discuss, some of the guidelines and so forth. So there’s a lot of similarity. Of course food’s not involved in it. There is more of a direct camera presentation style that goes on with “Minute to Win It.”
But I can’t say that it’s as wide of a spectrum that people might expect when they say, “Well what is a chef and restaurant owner doing over on a game show and how can that possibly be feasible?” And as I said at the very beginning, people are the common denominator.
And if you’re into people and you’re into seeing people, you know, win and I look at it always winning when you highlight somebody’s restaurant and you focus on them and you give them an opportunity to let America know about their location or you’re giving them a chance to win $125,000, at Level 6 or Level 7, there’s a lot of similarity.
I mean I tell my audience all the time -- and I do have the best audience in TV -- and these guys know - this audience is like they’re at a title fight.
And these people, I mean there’s tears in the audience at least two or three times a show just because it’s an emotional situation. We’ve got great people going after it.
On how the show's challenges are being played at home:
Guy Fieri: But I know from just personal experience, and this really is the straight-up truth, bro, we’ve played multiple games.
I mean New Year’s Eve we had a host of ten. And not just because I’m the host of the show because people really dig this. People want to, “Okay, I see it on TV, let me see if I can play it at home.”
I think it’s just naturally evolved. And we’re always looking for something challenging. I mean look how many people jumped in to play Wii now, you know, and the exercise Wii and this and that. I think that people are always looking for something to do.
And here’s the great thing, we’re in tough economic times, not everybody can afford to go out and buy the new game or the new gadget or the new thing. But everybody can probably pick up a bag of, you know, of ping pong balls and some red Solo cups and set up their own little mini-Olympics of “Minute to Win It” games.
So perhaps these guys really did have it in the main design. I’ve never heard that really declared as this is why we’re doing it this way, but naturally I just see it happening. And I see people doing it, I mean, everywhere. And I think that’s the beauty of it. I think that’s kind of like the silk lining of this whole situation is that people can really connect to it because they can do it.
And when you can do something, not everybody can play pro football or pro soccer, but when you can do something and you can really put your hands on it, it gives you another level of appreciation. It’s like me and golf, you know. All I’ve got to do is go out there and remind myself just how bad I am and to watch the PGA and go, “That’s amazing.”
On how the contestants are prepped:
Guy Fieri: That’s one of the best things about this is they are. And it’s funny, I say to the contestants and I also say this to their families, we want them to win. I mean there’s nobody going, “Set up the games really difficult so nobody takes home the cash.” The cash is the least of the issues. I mean we want to make good shows, we want to give people good opportunity.
I don’t really get into the whole design about how the whole operations go. I do get really good freedom of talking with the contestants, seeing them in training camp, talking to them before the show because I like to get them ready. I like to calm them down a little bit so they’re not overwhelmed by every aspect of what’s going to take place in the 60-second circle.
But yeah, this training camp, they get to learn from others that are in there doing it. They get to have some exposure to, this is pretty serious stuff. This isn’t just you practicing in your garage.
And they really do set the games up with the true integrity of how the game is to be played, the correct distance, someone’s actually standing there with a stopwatch timing them, there’s all those components come into play. So and all the contestants I’ve spoken to have just really been thankful and said it really has helped.
On which game was the toughest for him:
Guy Fieri: I’ve got to tell you, so the other day there was this game, I can’t even remember the name of it, but it involved four ping pong - four red ping pong balls and a hula hoop in the center of a probably a 10-foot diameter circle. And the contestant came up, and I can’t really tell you how the contestant did, but the contestant did well.
So I’m just really intrigued because the inventor of the game - we have different game - I call them the game wizards, were standing there. And the guy walks up to me and goes, “Bro, that’s my game. She destroyed it. She...”
And I said to him, I was laughing. So I walk out there after, we took a little break, I walk out there, so I pick up the ping pong ball and I try to do it. And I throw about 15 ping pong balls at it and I can’t touch it. And everybody, you know, in the audience is laughing about it.
So it’s not just, “Oh, look, a ping pong ball game, you know, here we go.” So things definitely have - they’re definitely more challenging I believe than they look. Typically the ping pong ball games though are the ones that I’m just not as skilled at and I don’t know why, because that ping pong ball just trips me out. It has such a unique flight - I mean I play ping pong. You know, my son and I have ping pong challenges all the time. With a paddle I’m great. Throwing that thing, I’m a mess.
When I talk to the contestants, I say to them, “Here’s the deal. I don’t want you to think about the money. I don’t want you to think about the lights and the cameras. I don’t want you to think about any of that. The audience is here to be your friend. The audience is here to encourage you. These are a bunch of people that believe in you, a bunch of people that want to support you.
I’m there to support you. I’m not the judge and jury. I don’t make any of the decisions. You know, I’m going to fight for you. If you think it was in-bounds or it was out-of-bounds or it by the second or whatever,” I said, “I’m there for you.” I said, “And all I want you to focus on is the game. Focus on the game. Don’t focus on the money. Don’t focus on anything. Focus on the game.”
And what we see like for instance with the pencil is that when the adrenaline gets going they get too much energy and they start bouncing that pencil and it ends up in a different country that’s probably one of the most common mistakes we’d see.
And they burn a life in the first few games, first few challenges and then after that they hopefully will dial it in. But losing a life early on is so difficult if they really do have the quest for the million bucks.
On how games are cooked up:
Guy Fieri: You know, it’s interesting how the games become lotteried. And it really is that. I mean there’s a team - correct me if I’m wrong, I think there’s about seven - six to eight guys, or game wizards as I call them, I’m not sure they’re all guys, that work on these games. I mean it’s a full-time staff building games.
You walk into the studio that’s adjacent to the studio where we actually shoot the show and it’s a full arena. You walk into the supply closets, you know, the supply rooms I should call them, and it is just lined with everything you can - I mean it’s like you’re shopping in a supermarket, everything’s on the wall. Everything. I mean from barbecues to knick-knacks to cereal, you know. And so they’re always developing games.
So the few games that I brought and thrown in the hopper have not made it to the stage yet. And there’s multiple reasons that it will and will not happen. Sometimes we have theme-oriented games.
Sometimes the games just don’t prove to be as repetitively consistent. You know, we want to have some consistency to them. We don’t want to have people just walk out there, $50,000 is on the line and some game is just so quirky that it just, you know, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.
So, no, our games have not hit yet but - and that’s probably the number one question my son Hunter asks is, “When’s my game coming?” You know, “Where’s my game?” So I think, you know, I think in this next round hopefully we’ll get Ring-a-Ling, we’ll at least get Ring-a-Ling in there.
I bring Hunter and Ryder down with me and just that’s the best time for me is I’m working and I’ve got the kids there and they go between the green room and the studio.
And the staff on the show is so cool and, you know, the kids get along with them. But I’ll tell you the funniest story is we were practicing Supercoin, you know, where you bounce the coin off the table into the water jug...and we were trying to get the lighting and the cameras set up for the action of those coins bouncing.
So there we are in rehearsal and the coins are being bounced and my little boy Ryder who is 4-1/2 was running back and forth across the stage shagging the coins. And so by the end of the 15 minutes he’s got a shirtful, you know, he put them in his shirt like a basket, he’s got a shirtful of these coins and one of the prop stylists comes up and says, “Hey, do you think we can get those coins back?” I said, “You go try and get them from the 4-1/2-year-old. You know, “You go talk to that kid.” Yeah, that’s a riot.
On why the game is so much fun for him:
Guy Fieri: I say this all the time that it’s not really a game show. I tell this to my audience. I said, “Hey, who’s ever been to a game show?” And they say, “Oh, we’ve been to a game show.” I say, “Well I just want to tell you this isn’t a game show, this is a life-changing show.”
Everybody kind of looks at me cross-eyed when I say that. And this isn’t really like a scripted comment that I’m supposed to, you know, like, “It’s a life-changing show.” I call it that and here’s why. If you go on some shows you have to be really, a Rhodes scholar of knowledge. Some shows you have to be an athlete. Some shows, you have different things. This is just an everybody, all-day, all-American type of show.
You can just be somebody - and I say all you got to have is some game. And people come into this the most unique dreams, wishes and desires. And sometimes they win big money and sometimes they don’t. But what a lot of them do, is a lot of them fulfill their self-awareness. They get out there and they do something about it. They get out there and they try. They put their name in the hat. They put their foot in the ring.
And it does so much. I watch people walk away from this show that haven’t won anything and go, “What an experience. I am just so happy. You know, I am going to go after making my pizza parlor. I don’t have any money, I did this, I can do anything.”
And when they get that kind of enthusiasm, that kind of energy, that’s why I say this is - to me as a person and as a chef, as a host, as a whatever, all these components of my life that’s probably what’s most exciting for me is just seeing the impact it has on people’s lives.
I really appreciate the way that NBC allows that naturally to foster...we’re not exploiting people, we’re not pushing them to the line, we’re not making a big drama-fest about, “You lost the money. How do you feel now?” it’s none of that kind of stuff.
So what you’re seeing is the good positive energy that’s coming out is real and the contestants I think really get a lot more out of it than just cash.
On celebrity contestants coming up this summer:
Guy Fieri: I would reveal them, probably get in trouble. I would tell you who they were, but I don’t know who they are. I do know that we’ve got some ideas of doing some shows with the NFL, which excites me because I’m a huge NFL fan. I’m a huge football fan.
Kevin Jonas came on and I thought, “Okay. Here we go. This is going to be the first kind of, piercing the lining. We’re going to make it easy on this guy.”
And I am standing there on the stage and here come these games and I’m like - I walked off the stage when we had a little break I walked up to the producer and I go, “(Craig), what’s up with this? You can’t - we’re not going to have celebrities come on here if you’re going to give them these hard runs.” He goes, “Dude, they’re all randomly picked. You know the way we do it.” And I’m like, “Even for Kevin Jonas?”
And Kevin Jonas, no kidding, this dude rocked. What you saw at that point in time was probably the best gamer that we had had to date was Kevin Jonas. That was all real. That was all straight up this is the way it’s going to go. And the one game that he was really the most confident in which is Don’t Blow the Joker turned out to be his fall.
But that element that went on and seeing the real person and the real gamer that he is, there’s a lot of real gamers. A lot of people that I talk to, my buddies, I’m saying to them, “Are you going to come do this? Are you going to come do this?” “I don’t know, man, it looks tough.”
On new food shows in the works:
Guy Fieri: You know, right now between “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives,” we do 39 shows for “Diners” a year and it takes about three days to make a show, just on my time. And then it takes about another four days of my crew along with “Guy’s Big Bite” which I do 39 shows of that as well, which we just started shooting in LA last - this last, what, May, April.
Between those two and then, 39, ironically enough, with NBC, it really hasn’t allowed there to be much window to do anything else. I’ve got a lot of projects, a lot of things I want to do, a lot of concept ideas that I have that I’m, you know, holding onto, but right now number one focus is my family always.
Trying to make sure that I apply the time, I don’t want to say I’m in a learning phase with this show but we’re rally trying to lay the foundation on “Minute to Win It” and make sure that we really solidify just how great the show is and get everybody’s awareness to it. I mean that’s the thing, I meet people every day and they go, “Yeah, I’ve heard about that. How does it work?”
So we’re still breaking in the new markets with show is really my focus at this time and, you know, once we get three or four seasons under the belt, then I’ll maybe go into the adventure of building some other shows. But I got some doozies up my sleeve. I’ll tell you that much.
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