Saturday, January 25, 2020

What is the Crystal Maze? | New Show Premieres Friday, Jan. 24, at 7:00 p.m. on Nickelodeon USA

Learn the ways of The Crystal Maze with "The Maze Master" Adam Conover! 🔮 Nickelodeon's brand new competition series premieres Friday, Jan. 24, at 7:00 p.m. (ET/PT), only on Nick USA!

Share it: #CrystalMaze @nickelodeon

Nickelodeon's The Crystal Maze is an all-new version of the legendary UK hit series, premiering Friday, Jan. 24, at 7:00 p.m. (ET/PT). The Crystal Maze will feature comedian/writer Adam Conover as the Maze Master, charged with guiding one family team through physical and mental challenges set within an elaborate labyrinth of four giant and immersive themed zones: Aztec, Eastern, Futuristic and Industrial.

The premiere episode of The Crystal Maze will feature a family from Houston, Texas, tackling a range of challenges in the maze for the first time ever for U.S. audiences. This season will feature families from: Scottsdale, Ariz; Lake Forest, Calif; Eastvale, Calif ; St. Augustine, Fla; Windemere, Fla; Chester, Va; Germantown, Tenn; Carollton, Texas; and Wheaton, Ill.

In each episode, the youngest family member takes on the role of team Captain. The successful completion of escape-room style challenges are rewarded with a “time crystal” granting the family five seconds in the centerpiece final zone called the Crystal Dome. The more crystals gathered throughout the game, the more time each family has for a dramatic clock countdown challenge inside the iconic Dome for a chance to win up to $25,000.

A current ratings smash in the UK, The Crystal Maze has been a beloved family and cult favorite since the mid ‘90s, with the current global popularity of the escape room phenomena reigniting interest further. The show was recently rebooted to great success with celebrity, charity and family seasons in UK, Australia and beyond.

The Crystal Maze is co-produced by Bunim/Murray Productions (The Real World, The Challenge, Born This Way) and RDF Television (Secret Life of 4 Year Olds, Wife Swap, Shipwrecked) under parent company Banijay Group. Gil Goldschein and Maria Pepin from Bunim/Murray Productions, Neale Simpson from Fizz, part of RDF Television, and Stephen David from Stephen David Entertainment serve as executive producers. Production of The Crystal Maze for Nickelodeon is overseen by Rob Bagshaw, Executive Vice President, Unscripted Content.

Production on the new series (10 one-hour episodes) took place on the show's original set located at The Bottle Yard Studios in Bristol, England, earlier this summer.

Devised by Jacques Antoine, the UK version of The Crystal Maze was originally hosted by Richard O'Brien (Rocky Horror), followed by Ed Tudor-Pole. The reboot was originally presented by Stephen Merchant (for Stand Up To Cancer), and currently by Richard Ayoade (The IT Crowd, Travel Man) with his "hand." The show's theme song is the legendary "Force Field", below. The show is currently filmed at The Bottle Yard Studios in Bristol.

From TV Insider (click here for video interview with Adam Conover)

Adam Conover Teases 'The Crystal Maze's High-Pressure Challenges (VIDEO)

Nickelodeon is inviting viewers on a fresh and exciting game show adventure with their new series The Crystal Maze, debuting Friday, January 24.

Derived from the beloved British series of the same name, The Crystal Maze harkens back to the nostalgia associated with game shows from Nickelodeon's past, from Legends of the Hidden Temple to Double Dare.

Back in the fall, TV Insider traveled to the set of the show in Bristol, England to experience the fun firsthand. While there, we tested some of the games and chatted with host Adam Conover (Adam Ruins Everything), as well as Rob Bagshaw, Executive Vice President, Nickelodeon Unscripted Content.

"That this is a series of interconnected, very physical, super-fun escape rooms set in a fictional maze," says Conover, whose gig as host includes taking on the persona of Maze Master.

"We're in a labyrinth and we're going from zone to zone, and game to game, winning crystals along the way. It's really an escape room meets Double Dare in a way," he explains. "And then it's of course hosted by me, an ageless immortal Maze Master, who is fabulously dressed."

The 10-episode season will feature teams as they bounce around various themed zones — Aztec, Eastern, Futuristic and Industrial — to collect crystals, which signify time in the dome known as the Crystal Maze. Inside, their goal is to collect as much airborne confetti before the allotted time runs out. The more confetti collected means the more money they walk away with.

"All the games are created for teams of five adults," Conover says of the show's usual format. "Instead we have American families playing them. So all of the games are obviously safe for kids — [Nickelodeon] taste-tested them and everything — but it's kids playing games that were designed for adults. So it's really serious in that way. And the adults have just as hard a time with them."

When it comes to the families participating, diversity is at the forefront. "We're always looking for that, so in every new show that we're developing, inclusivity and diversity are key in our casting. But it has to come from personality and character first," Bagshaw explains.

Among the participating families are those with a deaf family member and a cancer survivor, along with blended families with adopted kids, same-sex parents, and more. And when it comes to gameplay, "the youngest is the one choosing who does which game," Bagshaw shares, "but hopefully there's a game where each family member can shine."

"There's a little bit of a fictional world, and character to it that really excited me," Conover says about taking the gig. "I want the character to be really heightened and over-the-top."

This "heightened and over-the-top" effect is reflected in his clothing, as we spoke to Conover in a pink-toned sparkly suit coat and other wild accessories. "I worked with my stylist, who I work with on Adam Ruins Everything," he reveals, adding while pointing to his sparkly coat, "We've got 10 of these. We're doing 10 episodes."

Conover himself has a favorite game involving a dome, maze and air gun. "That is such a cool game design, especially because it requires really careful teamwork. They really cannot phone in the teamwork. They can't just all shout."

"I think that's a really, really cool piece of game design," he continues. "I'm a big video game fan. I have a game design podcast called Humans Who Make Games. That's the dimension that I'm really most interested in."

[...] Conover breaks down all you need to know about The Crystal Maze before tuning in, and join him in the maze's dimension when the series debuts.

The Crystal Maze, Series Premiere, Friday, January 24, 7/6c, Nickelodeon


From Den of Geek!:

Nickelodeon Returns To Its Game Show Roots With The Crystal Maze

British import The Crystal Maze is being reimagined as a family game show on Nickelodeon. We go behind the scenes to check it out!

To fans of a certain age, the dream of participating in a Nickelodeon game show could only be realized if you had a high tolerance for slime, but more crucially: the good fortune to be on a family vacation to Orlando. Nickelodeon Studios at Universal Studios' Florida outpost was the epicenter of the network—from game shows like Double Dare to sketch comedy with All That—throughout the ‘90s. Promoting a physical location as a destination for young viewers of the network built a sense of community that was truly unique in the years before internet fandom largely would come to define how we socially engaged with the next decade of television.

But by the early 2000s, there was a sharp decline in production at the Orlando studio as Nickelodeon moved the majority of its operation west. It marked the end of an era as Nick shifted its focus away from games to animation and live action.

Nearly 15 years after Nickelodeon closed the studio doors, and with it the chapter on its rich history of children’s game shows, the network is back in the game show business. This time on foriegn soil, Nickelodeon filmed its latest game show entry at a studio in Bristol, England, some 4,2000 plus miles from sunny Orlando, Florida. The Crystal Maze, which premieres on Friday, Jan. 24, is an Americanized version of the popular game show from England’s Channel 4.

In the show, families encounter challenges in four immersive themed zones: Aztec, Eastern, Futuristic, and Industrial. If a contestant completes a challenge–each of varying difficulty–they earn a “time crystal.” The goal is to earn as many time crystals as possible before the show ends with the family entering the Crystal Dome (exactly what it sounds like) to grab cash prizes that circulate around them (think money flying around a big wind tunnel). More time crystals means more time in the dome–and a chance to win up to $25,000.

The Crystal Dome is the centerpiece of the show experience. When we visited the Bristol set, the Dome was the last stop on our studio tour, but also the most rewarding. Stepping inside the enclosed dome is nerve-wracking at first, particularly for an American unfamiliar with the series and no awareness of how the Dome works its magic. Soon it’s filled with quickly circulating wind, like leaf blowers are howling at you from all directions, and flaky gold papers cling to your body and swirl all around you. I grab fistfills, but soon learn the dry run sews no cash reward.

Afterwards, Rob Bagshaw, Nickelodeon’s executive vice president of unscripted content, appears from beyond the Crystal Dome to tout his first big gamble since he took the position six months prior. The reality television veteran behind hits like RuPaul’s Drag Race and Top Chef Master was brought in to broaden Nickelodeon’s unscripted programming, which he admits has traditionally taken a backseat to animation and scripted at the network.

With zeitgeist-stealing reality shows dominating network TV ratings and drawing in families for, in network exec-speak, “co-viewing opportunities,” the time felt right for Nickelodeon to go back to its roots with a competition show.

“We really felt that we should be doing our own version of shows that the kids love to watch, but with a Nickelodeon lens,” Bagshaw says.

Under the directive to broaden Nickelodeon's demo, Bagshaw began looking for shows that were engaging for both kids and parents alike. At the time, a revived version of Nickelodeon’s classic ‘90s game show Double Dare was airing to much fanfare, and prompted a live tour. One of the network’s greatest hits was suddenly relevant again, but Bagshaw wanted a new, “big, physical game show.” He began taking original pitches and expanded his search to other existing game shows from around the world. Eventually he found one close to home. Recalling his days as a teenager back in England, Bagshaw saw an opportunity to bring the beloved British game show The Crystal Maze stateside under a family-friendly format.

“I remember watching The Crystal Maze when I was a teenager and it still is going strong,” Bagshaw says. “They change it slightly every year. But haven't really had families play the game. Traditionally, it's always been a team of five friends or contestants or work colleagues. I thought that's a show that does well, and it's a total blast to play.”

The series originally aired on England's Channel 4 from 1990-1995 and made a one-off comeback hosted by Stephen Merchant in 2016. The renewed interest in the series led to an official revival, which is still airing on Channel 4, hosted by comedian Richard Ayoade.

Nickelodeon found its host in comedian and actor Adam Conover, who is best known for his TruTV series Adam Ruins Everything. A regular host of live stand-up comedy shows over the years, Conover says being the master of ceremonies comes naturally to him. The offer to lead The Crystal Maze represented a chance to fulfil a childhood dream by playing a major part in a Nickelodeon game show. He also saw it as a fun improvisational challenge due to the show’s multifaceted games and themed areas. Nickelodeon let Conover run with creating his own identity for the host position.

“In my other workload, Adam Ruins Everything, I play a heightened extension of myself too,” Conover says. “I was like, ‘I can go in a different direction and build that character in a different way.’ This is like totally fantasy land."

His on-stage persona for Crystal Maze both honors the theatrics of the U.K. show’s original host Richard O’Brien, best known as the writer of Rocky Horror Picture Show, and is a heightened extension of Conover’s own personality.

“If you host Jeopardy, you just really have to wear a suit and be very normal and even-keeled,” Conover says. “But this one I can do sort of a crazy character and a different direction from what I've done before. This guy has stuff in common with the crypt keeper, that sort of thing where it's it can be really, really silly.”

Sitting on a platform in the shadow of the towering Crystal Dome, Conover recalls some of his favorite interactions from tapping the show that illustrate his flair for fictional embellishment.

“In one of the episodes, I tell the kids I’m a thousand years old,” he says with a laugh. “Obviously, everyone knows it's a TV show, but it's fun to have that bit of a fictional element in it. I'm sort of playing it both ways. I am the maze master, but I'm a little bit amoral. I'm a little bit of a trickster spirit."

Conover’s wardrobe matches the part; he’s wearing a sparkling, sequin purple tuxedo during our interview. When he signed on for the job, he gave his stylist back in Los Angeles a specific request for the vibe he was gunning for.

“You know how when you go to Dracula's house, he's all dressed up, even though he's all alone in a home in a big castle, right? That's this guy. He lives in this maze. He's dressed to the nines every single day. It's this crazy sort of evening wear look. We've got a lot of sparkly, gold tuxedo tops and stuff like that. It's very Met Ball but a kid's show.”

Conover is willing to go the extra mile to put his own comedic trappings on the game show proceedings. As their guide, he helps families take on the Crystal Maze for a chance at a serious cash prize. For viewers at home, he says the multi-camera format, without a live audience, gives the show a different feel from Nick’s previous entries in the genre.

“Obviously, I love Double Dare, but it's a single camera show,” he says. “They really are in the places. [The Crystal Maze] feels a lot more immersive. I think it really transports them there. The games are insanely fun to watch. It's going to give that sense of like, ‘Oh, I want to play that game and I wish I could do that.’”

Not only is The Crystal Maze more immersive, but it further cements Nickelodeon’s reputation for being an inclusive network. The show traveled a diverse set of families from the United States to its Bristol, England, studio. Bagshaw says it gives the show an American feel while also being representative of Nickelodeon’s viewers: “We've got families that are blended. We've got adoptive families. We've got three generations. We've got a grandma who's playing. We have a family with two moms. The youngest team captain in one family is a cancer survivor and she has a prosthetic limb. So it's super inclusive, and very diverse, which is exactly reflective of our audience.”

Could The Crystal Maze reignite a return to glory for a network that is still fondly remembered for GAS, Legends of The Hidden Temple, Figure It Out, and Double Dare? Bagshaw is noncommittal on the possibility of more revivals for now. Instead, he’s opting to focus on new shows, with the same energy that made Nick’s hits of the past resonate with fans still to this day.

“Nick kids are cool kids,” Bagshaw says. “We're not going to be doing this sort of show that you would see on other kids networks. Nickelodeon has always been pretty edgy. We certainly don't talk down to our kids; they’re smart, they're opinionated, they're sensitive, and they want to do what nobody else is doing, no matter their age. I'm looking at the things that they're watching elsewhere and I'm thinking, ‘well how can we do an original version of that?’”

The Crystal Maze premieres on Friday, Jan. 24 at 7 p.m. on Nickelodeon.


From Reality Blurred:

Nickelodeon’s Crystal Maze is a win for fans of both the UK show and reality TV challenges

Team captain Elias Blair tries a challenge in the Aztec Zone of The Crystal Maze while his family members look on and try to help

While I appreciated Nickelodeon’s excellent reboot of Double Dare, it wasn’t a show I kept watching, because its challenges and its trivia questions alike were clearly targeted at an audience of kids, who I’m so glad have their own version of a show I grew up with.

But Nickelodeon’s faithful new adaptation of the UK show The Crystal Maze (Fridays at 7) is a show I will return to every week: a zany, borderline farcical trip into themed worlds that deliver a non-stop stream of thoroughly gratifying reality TV show challenges.

Thanks to some of you, I watched and then wrote about the original series a few years ago. It was a 1990s-era UK game show, hosted by Richard O’Brien (who wrote The Rocky Horror Show and starred in its film adaptation as Riff Raff) that was revived for a one-off special in 2016 and then for a new seasons in 2017 with new host Richard Ayoade.

The same four zones—Industrial, Futuristic, and the “does this still work in 2020” Aztec and Eastern—have returned, because the Nickelodeon version filmed last summer on the same UK set in Bristol that the Channel 4 version uses. (It was designed by original Crystal Maze set designer James Dillon.)

The challenges all take place in relatively small, confined spaces and are themed to the zone. One person performs each challenge, which can be physical, mental, and a combination of the two. Two games are played in each zone, for a total of eight for the episode—fewer than the original, which had three or four per zone.

Their games and challenges could be found in an escape room or in a Legends of the Hidden Temple room, or in Big Brother’s back yard.

The challenges appear simple at first, but with a very limited amount of time in which to complete them, they become a lot more, well, challenging. There was one in the first episode that required more deductive reasoning than I was willing to do after a long day, while another had an anagram that the players and I both struggled with.

The least-inventive challenge in the premiere seemed like a stripped down, small-scale version of a standard Big Brother challenge—carry liquid from this place to that place, and don’t fall on your way—but the time crunch kept my interest.

The twist, if there is one, is that the original show had teams of six strangers; now we have families of five competing. The youngest kid is the team captain and decides who is going to play which games, though there is some familial pressure.

Just as The Amazing Race brought a new kind of interpersonal dynamic to competition shows by casting pairs of people with pre-existing relationships, bringing families into The Crystal Maze means that history and already established bonds come into play.

And the challenges allow family members to look on and help—which I should probably write as “help” in scare quotes.

Sometimes the family members’ assistance is required: in a particularly inventive challenge, the player is in an empty room, and is being motion captured, and the family watches a screen to help their avatar navigate a virtual, computer-generated obstacle course, in which the avatar will explode if touched by lasers.

In other challenges, family members just stick their heads through holes in the wall and shout at the player. This can be useful or completely annoying and unhelpful.

Host Adam Conover—as the “Maze Master”—occasionally provides clues and hints, though nothing that makes it easy to solve the puzzles the players are encountering.

Adam Conover, Maze Master of the U.S. version of The Crystal Maze
Adam Conover, Maze Master of the U.S. version of The Crystal Maze (Photo by Nickelodeon)
As Maze Master, Conover is a version of his Adam Ruins Everything character but injected with more manic energy and O’Brien’s sardonic wit, all wrapped in flamboyant suits and finished with painted fingernails.

“If you’re like me, you’re really passionate about sharp corners, water hazards, and gas leaks,” Adam says gleefully in the first episode, which is on YouTube. He’s sometimes commenting to camera and sometimes to the contestants, and is never deadpan, just reacting in the moment to the family and to what’s happening around them.

Mostly, though, Conover just having a lot of fun: with the players, and with us, and hitting the right beats—comic, playful, helpful—at the right times.

For example, Conover makes sure players stay aware of the time, perhaps because a kid locked inside a challenge room seems a little darker than having a random stranger locked away from their team.

I’m referring to The Crystal Maze‘s rule that if a player doesn’t complete their challenge in the allotted time, they’re locked inside that room. They can’t rejoin their team unless their team opts to exchange a crystal for them.

That’s a tough call since the crystals are the prizes for completing challenges, and each is worth five seconds; there’s also now a “mega crystal” that the team can play for at any time that’s worth 10 seconds.

That time is critical because it’s banked and used in the final game, which you may recognize from the classic Golden Girls episode “Grab That Dough.” The family stands inside a dome and money-sized gold and silver tickets, or tokens, fly around. They get $100 for every gold ticket, and lose $100 for every silver ticket.

It’s actually the most difficult challenge of the show. If a family grabs the equivalent of $10,000 (100 gold tickets and zero silver tickets, for example), they automatically win $25,000. But I’d expect considerably lower cash prizes.

Like everything else on The Crystal Maze, it moves quickly: the Nick version has more energy and tension than the original, and does not waste any time on superfluous filler. Even Conover’s bits happen during a challenge or is explanation, so it’s not a time out from the action.

If and when the particular challenges repeat, I’m curious if they’ll be as engaging; while there are plenty of shows that repeat their challenges (Survivor cough cough cough lung), those tend to be more complicated and elaborate. Will it be just as entertaining to watch someone else try to escape a maze of jail cell doors while a wall closes in? There are enough variables, from Conover’s improvisation to family dynamics, that should keep The Crystal Maze watchable for its 10-episode first season.

I love a reality TV challenge, and The Crystal Maze delivers. There are no bio packages or interviews, just players racing from one quick game to the next, making for a satisfying hour of television.


From WFLA:

Comedian/writerAdam Conover is the new host of Nickelodeon’s upcoming family game show, The Crystal Maze, an all-new version of the legendary UK hit series, premiering Friday, Jan. 24, at 8:00 p.m. (ET/PT). The Crystal Mazewill feature Conover as the Maze Master, charged with guiding one family teamthrough physical and mental challenges set within an elaborate labyrinth offour giant and immersive themed zones: Aztec, Eastern, Futuristic and Industrial.Said Conover,“As the Maze Master, the only thing that gives me greater joy than tormenting our adventurers with devious games is handing out giant cash prizes to the lucky few who manage to escape the challenges inside the crystal maze.This show is the ultimate challenge for families, proving that you have to work together if you want to win, and that’s a fact.”“We are delighted to welcome Adam Conover into the Nickelodeon family as ourfirst Maze Master. His wit, warmth and pizazz are the perfect attributes to guide families through the exhilarating adventure that is The Crystal Maze,” said Rob Bagshaw, Executive Vice President, Nickelodeon Unscripted Content.The premiere episode of The Crystal Mazewill feature a family from Houston, Texas,tackling a range of challengesin the maze for the first time ever for U.S. audiences. This season will feature families from:Scottsdale, Ariz;Lake Forest, Calif;Eastvale, Calif;St. Augustine, Fla;Windemere, Fla;Chester, Va;Germantown, Tenn;Carollton, Texas;and Wheaton, Ill. In each episode, the youngest family member takes on the role of team Captain. The successful completion of escape-room style challenges arerewarded with a “time crystal” granting the family five seconds in the centerpiece final zone called the Crystal Dome. The more crystals gathered throughout the game, the more time each family has for a dramatic clock countdown challenge inside the iconicDome for a chance to win up to $25,000.A current ratings smash in the UK, The Crystal Mazehas been a beloved family and cult favorite since the mid ‘90s, with the current global popularity of theescape room phenomena reigniting interest further. The show was recently rebooted to great success with celebrity, charity and family seasons in UK, Australia and beyond.The Crystal Mazeis co-produced by Bunim/Murray Productions (The Real World, The Challenge, Born This Way) and RDF Television (Secret Life of 4 Year Olds, Wife Swap, Shipwrecked) under parent company Banijay Group. Gil Goldschein and Maria Pepin from Bunim/Murray Productions, Neale Simpson from Fizz, part of RDF Television, and Stephen David from Stephen David Entertainment serve as executive producers. Production of The Crystal Mazefor Nickelodeon is overseen by Rob Bagshaw, Executive Vice President, Unscripted Content


From IGN:

The Crystal Maze: Nickelodeon's New Game Show is Escape Room Meets Dungeons and Dragons

If you grew up in the US in the '90s, chances are good that you dreamed of competing on Nickelodeon's Legends of the Hidden Temple or Double Dare; immersive, challenge-filled competitions that tested your mental and physical skills and promised to give you eternal bragging rights or a face full of slime.

But if you grew up in the UK, there was one game show that captured the public's imagination throughout the decade - The Crystal Maze, an immersive, interactive labyrinth filled with physical and mental challenges, spread across four distinct, themed "zones," including one that recreated an Aztec jungle, and another that imagined a pristine, space-based future. Teams of six adults would compete to complete games and earn "time crystals" - each crystal giving them five seconds towards the time they'd spend in the final challenge, an elaborate "Crystal Dome," where they'd have a chance to try and collect 100 gold tokens to win the cash prize, all while the tokens were blown chaotically around them by giant wind machines. Evoking the tension of an escape room, if contestants failed their puzzles or didn't complete them within the allotted time limit, they could risk being locked in the room, reducing the team's size and leaving that player unable to compete in the Crystal Dome.

Check out one of the new show's most stressful challenges, "The Shrinking Room," in the video below:

The History of The Crystal Maze

The original UK show ran from 1990-1995 before being revived in 2016 (it continues to air across the pond), but surprisingly for such a high-concept game show, the format never made it Stateside, until now. Rob Bagshaw, Nickelodeon's Executive Vice President of Unscripted Content, grew up in the UK with the Crystal Maze, and explained that the series felt ripe for a US adaptation after the network realized that their audience demographic seemed to be gravitating towards unscripted network TV shows with family appeal, like American Ninja Warrior, The Voice, America's Got Talent, The Masked Singer, Dancing with the Stars, and Ellen's Game of Games.

"[We] really felt that we should be doing our own version of shows that the kids love to watch, but with a Nickelodeon lens," Bagshaw explained. "When I'm looking for a new big physical game show, we knew that we wanted to have families play this new show, whatever it might be. We were pitched a lot of shows that were pitting parents versus kids or family versus family. And it just didn't feel quite right in the current climate. Family TV really is like feel-good television. So I thought, 'What's good family programming that is still right for Nickelodeon's kids but everybody can watch? Whether it's student television, whether it's adults who don't have kids that just love a good game...'"

Having watched the Crystal Maze as a teenager, it seemed like a "no-brainer" to Bagshaw, despite the fact that families traditionally haven't played the game together. "I think with the Crystal Maze, one of the biggest feelings that you have as a viewer is, 'I want to play that game. It looks like so much fun.' And we want to give our kids the opportunity to actually interact and get involved," he said.

"So to do that with a family of five as opposed to five contestants, and in the knowledge that had never been pitched in the U.S. before because it was seen as being a little bit too junior or a bit too family... now that's exactly what we're looking for," Bagshaw pointed out. "Plus escape rooms are such a phenomena over the last few years. We know that the Crystal Maze has been around for a long time in the UK way before escape rooms were popular. But when you add the fun of a family getting to do this together with an existing format that we know works, and some really clever little games that build up to a much bigger game, then you put that into the States where escape rooms are cool now and a lot of kids love the escape room experience. It all adds up to being something that we wanted to own."

The Crystal Maze is Escape Room Meets D&D

One of the thrills of the series is the immersive quality of the gameplay; the interactive, elaborate environments (Aztec Zone, Futuristic Zone, Eastern Zone, and Industrial Zone) evoke live-action roleplaying elements, the critical thinking of Dungeons and Dragons, and the ticking clock of an Escape Room. The US version is filmed on the show's existing Bristol-based set in the UK as a way to utilize the meticulously crafted zones and puzzles.

"These zones are huge. Of course it's a TV show so that there's cameras - so there is a kind of a fourth wall that's a camera. But I think when you're a young kid and you're put into that environment, you suspend your disbelief a little bit because it's so beautifully made," Bagshaw said. "It's one of the reasons that we came to the UK to do it on the original set. Not least because it's so expensive to build this and it's here - but these guys really know what they're doing. And over the last few years they've improved on the production values of the show every season."

The team is guided through the maze by a "Maze Master" who explains the challenges - acting as an in-world guide who is tied to the story of the maze. Rocky Horror Picture Show creator Richard O'Brien served as the original UK host, followed by Ed Tudor-Pole (the latest UK iteration is hosted by Richard Ayoade), while the US version has enlisted comedian Adam Conover to lead these brave souls through the challenges that await them.

"I really am leaning into the fictional world of it. That's the part that really gets me going. I love that this is not a traditional game show host, but that there's a degree to which he fits this archetype of the trickster spirit. Is he a vampire? Who is he? Why is he here? Just the fact that he's called the Maze Master," Conover told IGN on set. "That's why I play it as a very heightened theatrical way ... At one point in one of the episodes I tell the kids, 'I'm a thousand years old.' That's my approach, is to really lean into the idea that I'm not Adam Conover, the game show host; I'm Adam Conover, the Maze Master. I live in the maze. I designed all the games, the place is full of traps. I've brought you here to challenge you, et cetera... [he's] 100% the dungeon master."

Bringing Gaming to Life

Conover admitted that he's always been a "huge game player," from Dungeons and Dragons to Fire Emblem and Sekiro, "so I knew I really wanted to lean into that element of [the show]. I've really been a game-focused person my whole life and I'm very interested in game design. In the fictional world of the show, I designed all the games, which I didn't in real life. But that's what I say, 'games of my own invention.' That's very much how I'm interfacing with them as, 'what is it like to play this game?' I'll chat with the games crew between episodes going like, 'I think what happened with this one was it wasn't quite clear, they didn't get it right away,' just talking about how the players are taking in the game information."

To Bagshaw's point, Conover said the show tries to maintain the immersiveness of the world for the players - the kid contestants' ages' range from 9-18, while the parents in the team also seem to find themselves fully embracing the world of the show.

"There's a much more fantastical element in it compared to most game shows. It feels a cohesive world. One of the things I like about it is that the Crystal Maze feels a real place," he said. "It's a TV set so we yell cut and you have to go around backstage and see it, but I think the kids really do get immersed in it because there's no studio audience or anything. We're in the room, in the Aztec Zone it's around us, all four walls. There are camera men who are making sure they don't shoot each other. But apart from that, we are there and we run up to the door with them and they do get a safety briefing, you don't see that on camera, before we put them in the room. But when we say, 'okay, you may now enter the game' and they enter the room, that's the first time they're in the room. So they really are there and they really do take it seriously. Everybody really wants to win the games."

Bagshaw revealed that designing and building the challenges takes about three months, "just from an idea to having it realized ... So the original designer, the creator of the show who designed the sets is still with the show. And a lot of the producers and games designers have been with the show for many years. So they really know what works and they get excited every time. And even this experience doing it with kids, the game designers, the producers have all got more excited for their next season of the UK version ... They're still coming up with new ideas."

Be honest, you kind of want to play, right?

The Crystal Maze premieres Friday, Jan. 24 at 7 p.m. ET/PT on Nickelodeon.


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Originally published: Sunday, January 12, 2020.
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