'Who's Still Standing?' hopes to drop contestants and raise ratings
On Monday, Dec. 19, the hourlong
It's based on a hit Israeli format called
The host of NBC's edition is Ben Bailey, who peppered unsuspecting passengers with questions after they got into his New York taxi on
Here, he's still asking trivia questions, but this time the contestants are standing on platforms, with a designated main competitor going head to head against one of 10 challengers in a trivia duel that can ultimately lead to a $1 million jackpot.
If a contestant gets a question wrong, he or she drops through the platform into the murky depths under the stage.
"We'll never show what they land into," says executive producer Craig Plestis, sitting in the show's green room at the historic Sunset Gower Studios in Hollywood. "You'll just see them falling down. The mystery for the TV audience is, 'What do they fall into? What happens?'
"Put a pop quiz out there. What do you think they fell into? Piranhas?"
OK, an under-stage tour revealed that it's not piranhas. And even though some contestants may choose to wear short skirts, there aren't going to be any wardrobe malfunctions on the way down. This is a family-friendly show, after all, which Plestis emphasizes.
"Everybody has Spanx or something," he says. "We're never going to see that stuff. This is a family show. I really want Americans to watch it all together. There's not enough of those shows.
"I have a 15-year-old daughter. She loves to watch this with her friends. I love that. You laugh, and you activate the brain. ... I think we've approved over 5,000 questions so far. We've been up late. Everything has to be researched."
For Bailey, he's still the host of a trivia game show, but he no longer has to worry about moving violations.
"I'm liking it a lot," he says, taking a break between episodes in an alleyway behind the soundstage. "I don't have to drive a car. I don't have anyone talking in my ear. I just get to have some fun. It's kind of a like a stand-up show.
"I'm a comedian. I've been doing stand-up for a long time. I've developed these different personalities. Like, stand-up is different than who I am normally; 'Cash Cab' is a little different from that.
"So, this, for me, is the perfect mix of both. There's a live audience, so I feel like I'm at a stand-up show. There's trivia, which is fun. Obviously, it's fun to watch people drop through the floor, which is cool."
The last contestant standing has an option -- he or she can walk out or fall out. Some choose the drop; some don't.
On this particular day, the winner opted to skip the fall.
"He made a good point," Bailey says. "He earned it. He said, 'I'm going to walk out of here.' I'd say it's about half and half (drop or no drop). So far, the audience hasn't swayed anybody, but they have started chanting.
"They're trying to get people to drop. It started yesterday. The audiences just seem to take on their own personalities. They're chanting, 'Drop her! Drop her!' And I'm saying, 'Do you want to walk through the door or drop through the floor?' It's getting really fun."
Plestis also thinks the folks at home will have fun.
"This show," he says, "the beauty of it, it's enjoyable. It's great questions. It goes on nonstop with the questions. You can go on for 30 questions in a row, nonstop. And you can play along.
"There's not enough play-along on network game shows. This is probably one of the few network shows that you can play along with. I love that aspect. I love trivia. And when someone drops, it's pure gold. It's pure, solid gold.
"It's actually real jeopardy for the contestants."
But, alas, not yet for Bailey.
"I haven't tried it," Bailey says. "They won't let me do it. When everything is done, I can try it. I'll get to do all the fun stuff that might injure me and slow down production.
"I can't wait to try it. I really want to do it. Just now, I was saying to the stage manager, 'Come on, man, put me on a door! I want to go through the floor.' "