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How NBC’s “College Bowl” Revival Made a Show During the Pandemic




Reinventing a classic TV format is difficult under all circumstances. But the creative team behind NBC’s new prime-time take on “College Bowl” had to do it in the midst of a pandemic. Premiering on June 22 at 10 p.m. ET, the new “College Bowl” is hosted by Peyton Manning, with his brother Cooper as his sidekick.

Based on an idea by Don Reid, the original “College Bowl” first aired on radio, then moved to CBS in 1959, and then aired on NBC from 1963 to 1970. The Student Quiz Show continued as a non-televised national competition, under the supervision of College Bowl President Richard Reid, and also spawned several international editions, as well as a championship dedicated to Historically Black Colleges (HBCU).

The revival of NBC, which includes a title sponsorship from Capital One (which is why the full title is “Capital One College Bowl”), comes from Village Roadshow Television and Universal Television Alternative Studio. The 10-episode series features college students competing for a share of $ 1 million in scholarships, with participating schools including University of Alabama, Auburn University, Columbia University , University of Michigan, University of Minnesota, Ole Miss, Morehouse College, University of Tennessee. , University of Southern California, UCLA, University of Virginia and Xavier de Louisiana.

“’College Bowl’ is meant to engage these amazing kids who are brilliant across the country, and they are in the process of being educated,” said Shannon Perry, Senior Vice President of Reality and Production Services at Village Roadshow Television. “In that situation, they were there to get their education in the worst possible times. They lost everything good about college. It was kind of diminished at the time of filming. of ‘College Bowl’ for the first season, and we wanted to reinvigorate that feeling for them.

While filming the game show, including a stand and winner’s ladder during the pandemic, producers had to travel to safety and quarantine 15 teams of four students each at the studios of the “College Bowl” in Los Angeles. (While 12 teams were on the show, three other teams were on standby in Los Angeles and also in quarantine, while two more teams were in their home city, also in quarantine, as an extra hold. )

While in quarantine, the students were stationed in hotel rooms, with meal service under the door, but were otherwise not allowed any human contact until they arrived on stage.

Perry praised the courage of the students, who “had to quarantine themselves in their hometowns, or wherever they are, before we walked through them.” She added, “They had to perform COVID testing remotely and send tests for us, multiple times. And then they had to travel from all over the country that was snowy and miserable, to LA, where the weather was nice and beautiful and amazing – but they had to stay locked in their hotel rooms because we couldn’t get them. allow quarantine to be broken.

“It was absolutely inspiring and amazing and we just couldn’t be more proud of the students who came to do it, who came to participate in the College Bowl,” she said. “I think it’s really important for anyone who watches the show to understand what these students went through in order to participate in the show.”

Prior to filming, the production team also had to set up a system on Zoom for contestants to learn the game fairly. This meant no in-person workouts; instead, all participants learned via an online game that included the show’s graphics, response time, pace of play and more. And before submitting the candidates to the process, the producers used Zoom to perfect how this “College Bowl” works.

“We basically created a Zoom game show,” said Perry. “Every day we practiced the Zoom game. We timed it and we tweaked the gameplay and we changed the pace and we added some extra gameplay rounds. It was changing daily, so we found a way to nail this format from a distance. … You have to make sure that everything is also going in the NBC synchronization formulas. You have to go to commercial. It was a huge undertaking and it was really exciting to understand everything from a distance. I would almost say that going forward was significantly more effective than playing in person.

Perry said the staff of the show’s five WGA member writers also managed everything remotely, and the team still managed to understand the modern voice of the “College Bowl” while collaborating on Zoom.

“We’ve basically structured all of our categories so that they feel college-themed,” she said. “It was all invented during COVID in these remote Zoom rooms where we just worked and worked. I would say the development of Zoom is very viable. There’s a lot of value in all being in a room and joking around and brainstorming, and there’s tremendous value in that. But when it comes to nailing a format and perfecting the flow of a show, especially a game show, I think Zoom is very useful, and I would push that forward 100%. It’s also incredibly effective.

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“Capital One College Bowl”
Greg Gayne / NBC

Richard Reid, whose father created the format, is an executive producer on the revival and also helped guide development as producers sought to evolve the format. “Everyone’s mantra, as we go along, is what is most important here: the kids who win scholarships, the kids who get on with their education. In fact, at the time, university enrollment was declining. Schools were in trouble. The disinterest in university education was sort of at its height. And we really wanted to figure out how to bring him back. That was another big part of that, is working with universities to gain their trust and get them on their show.

This partnership included the use of college fight songs and the use of famous alumni to send messages of support to student applicants. Among these messages recorded for the show: Brady, Katie Couric, Charles Barkley, Eli Manning, Spike Lee, Troy Aikman, George Stephanopoulos, Joe Namath, Scott Kelly, Darren Criss, Tim Cook, LeVar Burton, Mayim Bialik, Joe Scarborough, Shaun Alexander, Michael Oher, Juju Smith-Schuster, Janet Evans and Major General Charles Bolden Jr.

As for the $ 1 million scholarship provided by Capital One, the champions will each win $ 125,000, but each candidate will receive a certain amount of money. “What we needed for these scholarships to be life changing is if we could donate a million dollars,” said Perry. “Capital One gave us a million dollars to divide among these kids and these scholarships.”

From there, the College Bowl worked with each university to plan how to ensure that the money from this scholarship went to the student’s education. “Because one of the elephants in the room was the student maybe didn’t need the tuition, but what they need is a new laptop, because it’s the one thing they can’t afford with their scholarship or student aid, ”Perry said. “And so we worked with the universities to make sure there weren’t any stipulations about the money, that it could be carried over to the next year and into the next year. That it could be used for room and board, that it could be used for a new computer or books or whatever.

The first episode of the “College Bowl” series features Alabama versus Auburn and Michigan versus Minnesota. Each episode takes place over four rounds, with the top two schools advancing to a finals, where they compete for the Capital One College Bowl trophy and top prize in the scholarship. But beyond the gameplay, perhaps the other appeal of the series lies in the interaction between the Manning brothers.

“Once we started playing remotely with Payton and Cooper, all of a sudden our show started to feel alive,” Perry said. “Their jokes are hysterical and they are organic. None of this is written down, and the two regularly break their chops.

Peyton Manning, Cooper Manning, Eli Manning, Richard Reid (via Richard Reid Prods.) And Mark Itkin via his Tough Lamb Media are executive producers. David Friedman is the showrunner of the series. Village Roadshow Television, a division of the Village Roadshow Entertainment Group led by CEO Steve Mosko, physically developed and produced the show.

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