Set Design- 9
Show Flow- 9
Potential Viewer Ratings- 7
Play-Along Factor- 9
Overall Rating- 8.5
Premise: Two teams comprised of two civilian contestants and a celebrity teammate compete against each other in a series of three rounds. In the first round, each team selects a category out of two. Each team has 45 seconds to guess the 10 names included in each category. The celebrity teammate will alternate giving clues to each contestant, giving both teammates a chance to guess up to 5 names each. The clue-givers are not allowed to spell out the names, use rhyming techniques or use any part of the name for their clues. Each correctly guessed name is worth $100. The second round plays the same except the celebrities switch teams, one of the civilian contestants are the clue-givers and each name is worth $200. In the third round, the celebrities sit out and the host will be giving the clues to each contestant. On each word, one contestant from each team will face each other in a head-to-head matchup and will alternate turns. A correct answer earns the team money and incorrect answers forfeits the money to the opposing team. Here are the dollar values for each word: #1- $100, #2- $200, #3- $300, etc. The first team to reach $3,000 wins the game, keeps their winnings and advances to the bonus round.
In the bonus round, the team will have a total of 75 seconds to get the two celebrity guests to guess 10 names correctly. The first teammate has 45 seconds and the second teammate has 30 seconds to get the remaining words. If the team can get the celebrities to guess all 10 words correctly, the team’s earnings jumps to $20,000. Otherwise, the team leaves with the money they had won in the front game.
And now, for the review…
About three years ago, a pilot was filmed for CBS and was developed for the network to potentially add Celebrity Name Game to its primetime schedule. A few months later, CBS passed on the deal to green light the game show. After seeing one of the first episodes of the now syndicated series, I think CBS missed out on a key opportunity to adding an entertaining game show to its lineup, especially with the rising popularity of NBC’s Hollywood Game Night. On the surface, Celebrity Name Game seems like nothing more than a plain word association game show with repetitious format. However, there are several elements that makes this show worth watching including the competitive spirit of the contestants and celebrity guests, the humor in contestants of certain ages attempting to guess old/new pop culture icons and watching household celebrity names play a game that, in a sense, has been around for years. It’s even more interesting to when the contestants and celebrities creatively breakdown the names by individually describing each word until the guesser puts two and two together. With this being said, the one major aspect of Celebrity Name Game that would entice viewers to check out the show and even DVR it is Craig Ferguson as the show’s host.
When I interviewed Ferguson a couple of weeks ago and asked him how this show would fare compared to Hollywood Game Night, he stated that he had not seen the show prior and he did not think that it mattered. What this said to me was that Ferguson approached this show in the same manner he did with The Late Late Show: to make it his own by just simply being himself. Ferguson’s enthusiastic involvement in the game, genuine personality and general presence on the set gives the show life while keeping the focus on the contestants. A good example of this is when Ferguson is giving clues in the third round. I like the producers’ decision of getting him more involved in the gameplay as a clue giver for both teams in the penultimate round, similar to what Alan Thicke did on Pictionary in tie-breaker rounds. It adds more of a comedic dynamic to the show, especially when he runs out of ways to describe a person and becomes a bit exasperated at the contestants not buzzing in at that point.
As far as the gameplay goes, I applaud the game’s simplicity, the cash prize at stake, the excellent play along factor, the tag team bonus game and the head-to-head, catch-up round that is added at the end of the front game to add suspense and to ensure there are no “locked” games. The gameplay factors I appreciate the most are the undervalued contestant-to-celebrity ratio (2:1 compared to HGN’s slightly overwhelming 1:3) and the condensed 30-minute format.
The only issues I have with the show are the repetitive first and second rounds and the division of the bonus round time between each teammate.
Repetitive Rounds: Rather than having rounds one and two play the same, the second round could have been played like the “Circle of Fame” round proposed in the pilot episode back in 2011 (Go to Hollywood Junket for more information on how the round is played). This would bring more variety and more excitement to the game, especially with the contenders frantically running around and quickly getting into respective positions.
Unequal Bonus Round Times: I don’t care for the 45/30-second distribution that puts the latter teammate at a disadvantage. I can see the reasoning behind the time structure with the first contestant covering a majority of the 10 names while the second picks up the remaining few; however, I think the balanced 30/30 distribution would have worked just as well.
Overall, Celebrity Name Game is a fun and terrific game show with a great host, good gameplay and an excellent roster of guest stars arranged for the season. As I have previously mentioned, I believe this show will attract viewers who love to see their favorite celebrities play games as well as audiences who are fans of word association game shows like Pyramid and Password. It’s a bit of a bold prediction, but I believe this Celebrity Name Game will stick around in syndication for at least three seasons.