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June 19, 2017

The Games People Play

Jane Lynch doesn't play games, but she does enjoy watching them.

Sarah Hirsch
  • NBC
  • NBC
  • NBC
  • NBC
  • NBC

Jane Lynch doesn’t like game nights.

“I don’t throw game nights, and I don’t go to them either,” she says. “I’m not a game person.”

And yet, she enjoys hosting the popular NBC show Hollywood Game Night, which ushers in its fifth season on June 22. The series features celebrities and regular folks alike playing original games, and competing on one of two teams for $25,000 (cash for the contestants and a donation to a charity of their choice for the celebrities).

“But I have been to [series creator Sean Hayes’] game nights,” Lynch continues, “and they’re like this. They’re all original games, we go from room to room and he has a variety of people there. He’ll have his famous friends, and also his chef.”

The Emmy Award-winning host — who won twice for Game Night and once for Glee — doesn’t have to play any of the games on the show, however. “I learned right away where I’m needed, and it’s just to look pretty and read the teleprompter,” Lynch quips.

And as one of the show’s resident celebrities, her feedback about new games is also priceless to the producers.

“There have been some games that pushed the line,” Lynch says. “Like they were going to have them wear fat suits, for no other reason than to see celebrities in fat suits. So I nixed it. You’re welcome, fellow celebrities.”

Before the games are even shown to Lynch, however, the process to create them takes place, starting 12 weeks before shooting.

“We bring the team in,” says executive producer Michael Binkow, “go on road trips to toy stores and amusement centers, and try to come up with games that are clever, unique and haven’t been played before.”

Next, the producers try out potential games with test contestants, then present the ones that make the cut to another round of producers, followed by network executives. The remaining number of games is cut in half. So it’s no surprise that with a system that rigorous it took the producers three years to finally land on a workable version of musical chairs, that wouldn’t involve an on-set injury.

“It’s no secret we give our celebrities a lot of alcohol,” says executive producer Michael Agbabian. “They have a lot of fun, they get wrapped up in the game…so using pillows ended up becoming the solution.”

Another game that has proven difficult to crack? Any that has to do with drawing. “Because drawing is talent specific,” says Agbabian. “A lot of people are just terrible drawers. If you look back at our show’s history, we’ve tried many different drawing games, but you’ll only see them once.”

What makes a good game night, however, isn’t just the fun games, but the people.

“Yes, we’d like to have all of the big names,” Binkow says, “but we really want people who want to come and have fun. And it’s about the combination. We have some eclectic shows coming up with people from all different walks of life and celebrity. That’s the most fun.”

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