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Howie Mandel Previews 'Take It All'

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howie mandel

Howie Mandel hosts Take It All

courtesy NBC

A new game show will be airing as a special event this December on NBC. Hosted by Howie Mandel, Take It All is loosely based on the party game White Elephant. Contestants will have to chose gifts, all of which contain prizes. They can choose an unclaimed gift or take one from someone else. Contestants are eliminated one by one and when it gets down to only two left standing, they then opt to "take it all" or "keep mine." If they both go with keeping their gifts, they both leave with what they've selected. If they both want to take it all, they both leave with nothing. If only one chooses to take it all, that contestant gets both gifts and the other leaves with none.

The show kicks off on December 10th 2012 and airs through the 14th, then returns on the 17th for two final episodes. It's a great idea for holiday event programming.

On November 27th 2012, Howie Mandel held a conference call for the media in order to answer questions about the show. While this isn't a complete transcript, it's a good overview of the topics he covered and the questions he answered.

Q: How is the game different from what people play in their homes?

Howie: If you play this in your homes I'm coming to your home - we give away everything from cars to hovercraft. More than any Secret Santa may have. We start with five, whoever ends up with least expensive prize goes home. They end up with extravagant prizes and then they have the choice: Take It All or Keep Mine.

It's great gamesmanship because it's like poker, and it's the most surprising social experiment I've ever been a part of.

Q: Is it like Let's Make a Deal meets Showcase Showdown?

Howie: It's Deal or No Deal. You don't know what the prize is. You're sitting there with a brand new Mercedes, and you don't know whether to keep it or try for something else. Did you make a great decision or did you blow it for yourself? You don't need skill, there's no trivia no nothing. People are crying and screaming - it's a huge reaction. Like Deal or No Deal it's a huge amount of emotion.

Q: People tend to bring dud gifts in a Yankee Swap. Is that an element in this show?

Howie: No, absolutely not. In the beginning rounds where the amounts are lower, you can end up with a $15,000 prize. In any other game that would be a really nice valuable gift, but here that can be the dud because you'll have to give it up and go home. That said, the prizes are like characters in themselves. You'll see things you won't see on any other show. Hovercrafts, submarines, jet packs - I see these things and go "Oh my God!"

Q: Will it go on beyond holidays?

Howie: That's a question for NBC. I have this opportunity to do an event, and the last time I did this it was Deal or No Deal. And that holiday event turned into 500 episodes. I would love that to happen again, but we take each day as it comes. I've asked to host everything they have in the way of games since Deal or No Deal, but I really, really wanted to do this one. I just went into the room and showed them a game, and it's seven hours of TV now. I'll be thrilled if it goes beyond that.

Q: What have you learned about people's natures from hosting game shows?

Howie: I've learned that I know nothing. You cannot judge a book by its cover. I'm fascinated by the human condition - you put people in different environments and they won't even know what they're going to do. It's like going into a casino, people are faced with big cash and prizes and their eyes glaze over. My job is to try and keep them as focused as possible so they can plan their attack and stay true to how they want to play the game.

Q: What kind of gamer are you?

Howie: Trivia and physical things that people have to do, those things are exclusive. If I don't know anything about the subject matter I can't participate. Things like this, everyone can play and everyone can do well and that's fascinating to me. I don't have the guts to do something like that. I mean if someone handed me five dollars to play I'd be thrilled with that five dollars and I'd leave.

Q: Why this game show?

Howie: Having been to parties where this is played, you realize that it's a great form of entertainment and a great interactive, social, fun game. I have no interest in saying, you know, "Question #2..." - that's not what I do. This is entertainment first and foremost. This is the kind of television that, not since Deal or No Deal, have people been on the edge of their seats like that, wondering what's going to happen. People are yelling and telling others what to do, and it's entertaining. That's what I love about it. More than a game, it was social, visceral. I got talked into Deal or No Deal, but what I ended up loving about it is what it became - this intense kind of party environment that I wanted to show up to every day.

Q: Any possibility of a Gremlins reunion or remake?

Howie: I know nothing about it, but if they do it I hope they give me a call, I would love to be a part of that.

Q: Are we all on the same page during the game, or does the audience know what's happening?

Howie: We're all on the same page, including me. And that's why I wanted to do this - I've never gone into the prize room because I wanted to be blown away by the prizes too. I want to guess, I want to have fun. I don't know the prizes or values. The other thing is, I know nothing about the contestants until I start asking them questions. I don't want to know beforehand. It's fun to find out at the same time as viewers. For me, if the audience knows things that the players don't, that takes away from the experience.

Q: Are the contestants picked from the audience or pre-determined?

Howie: They're picked in the traditional way - alerts go out and people apply if they want to be part of it. They're not taken out willy-nilly from the audience. That part of production is still open, so if your readers want to apply tell them to go to NBC.com.

Q: Are contestants allowed to exchange prizes if they discover that can't use a hovercraft, for example, after winning?

Howie: I really don't know, that's not my department. I'd imagine they would have to keep the prize though.

A couple of other things to note: The crew behind Take It All is made up of most of the same people who worked on Deal or No Deal, and Howie says that they've build up a great working relationship and rapport. He adds, "If you loved Deal or No Deal, you'll love this." Production wise this game is very different though, as there are a lot of "moving parts."

The game itself involves a few other twists, including a block that contestants can use to hold on to a prize. Contestants are allowed to lie about anything they want including their backgrounds, in order to try to get the others to trust them.

Howie Mandel isn't just the host of the show, he's also the Executive Producer. That made things a little tricky in trying to keep things from him (such as the prizes and their values), but they've succeeded in making it all just as surprising for Howie as it will be for the audience.

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