LOS ANGELES — Ellen DeGeneres, known for keeping her comedy on the nice side, lets her inner meanie out for “Ellen’s Game of Games.”
NBC’s new prime-time game show, which begins its regular run at 7 p.m. Tuesday after a December sneak peek, subjects its contestants to measured torments that delight host and executive producer DeGeneres.
“It’s hilarious to see the panic and fear on their faces if they get the answer wrong,” she said, knowing the possible consequences include being drenched with something gooey or launched airborne or dropped through the stage floor.
“But no one can get hurt. It’s only public humiliation,” she said, drolly. “It builds character, and to win $100,000 it’s what we must go through.”
That’s the top prize for those who conquer a variety of games, including some played on DeGeneres’ syndicated daytime talk show — “but on steroids, bigger, higher and more dangerous,” she said — and newly devised ones.
Challenges on the hour-long show include Blindfolded Musical Chairs, Dizzy Dash and Scary Go Round. The host’s quick patter fills in the gaps, with an assist from “Ellen” DJ and sidekick Stephen “tWitch” Boss.
“Game of Games” is part of a resurgence of popularity for game shows, a trend that makes sense to DeGeneres.
“When you have times that are difficult or stressful in the world …. we need a place to look at something that’s mindless but entertaining,” she said.
She makes an effort to bring the fun to whatever she’s doing. DeGeneres has built a production company and a lifestyle brand, published books and hosted awards shows, for starters. It suits her and her body to stay busy, she said.
“It’s best I keep working, because if I take too much time off, I get sick,” DeGeneres said, blaming a recent minor bug on a two-week vacation.
She shrugs off the idea she’s a workaholic. Her wife, Portia de Rossi, is starting her own company, and DeGeneres says she has friends who put in far more hours than she does. She names one, a fellow TV host.
“Ryan Seacrest, I don’t know how he does what he does,” she said.
Lynn Elber, Associated Press Television Writer