Chris Kamara and Mel B among celebrities in a spin in new game show dreamt up in the bath by comedian Michael McIntyre

Dermot O'Leary is among celebrities including Mel B and Chris Kamara who feature on the show. Photo: PA Photo/BBC/Hungry Bear/Gary Moyes.Dermot O'Leary is among celebrities including Mel B and Chris Kamara who feature on the show. Photo: PA Photo/BBC/Hungry Bear/Gary Moyes.
Dermot O'Leary is among celebrities including Mel B and Chris Kamara who feature on the show. Photo: PA Photo/BBC/Hungry Bear/Gary Moyes.
As new primetime BBC game show Michael McIntyre’s The Wheel gets ready to air, Danielle de Wolfe learns more from the comedian about what exactly is in store.

“I don’t know how you found that out; I thought I’d only told one person that,” exclaims Michael McIntyre with alarm. “But yes, I did think of it in the bath.”

The “it” the British comedian and star of Michael McIntyre’s Big Show is referring to is his new primetime BBC One game show, Michael McIntyre’s The Wheel.

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A format unlike anything you’ve witnessed on television before, The Wheel sees three contestants join forces with a variety of celebrity “expert” guests in a bid to win life-changing sums of money.

Michael McIntyre's The Wheel begins this weekend. Photo: PA Photo/BBC/Hungry Bear/Gary Moyes.Michael McIntyre's The Wheel begins this weekend. Photo: PA Photo/BBC/Hungry Bear/Gary Moyes.
Michael McIntyre's The Wheel begins this weekend. Photo: PA Photo/BBC/Hungry Bear/Gary Moyes.

The quirk, as you may have guessed, is that the celebrity guests are all strapped to a rotating wheel.

“I didn’t want to be a game show host, I just wanted to be me hosting a game show,” declares McIntyre, 44.

“I just thought, there hasn’t been any brand new formats for game shows, quiz shows – and they’re so well loved and they always do so well. So, I thought, ‘I’m going to try and think of one’.

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“And I did – well, I thought of two in the bath… It sort of came to me as like a human roulette wheel.

“I have to say, I’ve enjoyed the roaming around thing; I feel a bit like Noel Edmonds when I’m doing it.”

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Initial descriptions aside, there is more to this game show than first meets the eye.

Each episode features three contestants who find themselves on a wheel located directly beneath the main celebrity wheel.

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After one person is selected at random, they are elevated to the centre of the celebrity wheel above and remain there until they get a question wrong.

“The theory was that you build a good rapport with these three people and you start rooting for one of them and also, only one of them can win and two of them can’t,” says McIntyre.

“No-one’s felt sick to be honest. I mean, a couple of people looked a bit ropey at the beginning because we do spin them too much before for shots, so I’ve stopped them doing that. I don’t want everyone starting the show dizzy and confused.”

It is up to the contestant to pick a topic, answering their question and building up the prize fund with the help of one of the seven celebrities located on the wheel.

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Among those to take part in the series are Leeds-born ‘Scary Spice’ Melanie Brown and former professional footballer and sports pundit Chris Kamara, who had spells with Leeds United, Sheffield United and Bradford City and now lives in Wakefield.

With each celebrity specialising in a different topic area and the wheel being spun to select the helper at random, there’s every chance that the contestant could be hindered rather than helped by landing on a celebrity with next to no knowledge of their chosen topic.

“We had Carol Vorderman on numbers; we had Professor Green on rap music; Chris Kamara on football; we’ve got Joey Essex on dating; we’ve got Mel B on the Spice Girls; Dermot O’Leary is doing World War Two – he says he’s an expert, we’ll find out.

“We did struggle to get certain bookings because of a vertigo issue,” the comedian confesses, despite the wheel being stationed at ground level and rotating horizontally.

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“I ran into David Walliams and he just kept saying, ‘Will my head get cut off?’

“I’m like, ‘You don’t seem to understand what I’m trying to explain to you, it’s just round in a circle! It’s like a massive tea cup’.”

But then comes one final twist, as the celebrities – who have been playing along throughout, secretly answering every question using their keypad – find themselves the subject of scrutiny.

“I don’t know whether [the celebrities] just haven’t been explained the game, but there’s a wonderful moment at the end.

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“We collate their scores and then I reveal the rank order of how they perform – from the best celebrity expert to the worst – and I’m telling you, the contorting of their bodies in their chair.

“They’re looking around like, ‘Nobody told me we were going to be judged here!’”

With the contestant then required to pick either the highest, middle or lowest ranking celebrity helper to answer one final question – with their selection affecting the final prize pot – you’d be forgiven for thinking the audience would be teetering on the edge of their seats.

“It’s a very strange situation,” says McIntyre. “There is a studio audience but they’re not even with us, they’re all in masks behind a wall. It’s a very bleak situation.

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“I’m so grateful to them for coming but they’re there to create an atmosphere – but we can’t really hear it.

“I love audiences – I did the Big Show in a theatre for that reason. I don’t want to be in a studio. The more people laughing, the more relaxed I’m going to be.”

However, it might just be the combination of awkward celebrity moments and artful suspense that elevates Michael McIntyre’s The Wheel to “must-watch” status.

“I wanted video gaming to be one of the categories – because, obviously, that’s what people do 100 per cent of the time now if they’re under 18 years old because of the situation,” says McIntyre.

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“So, I got this guy, Vikkstar – he’s a YouTuber, he’s got over 10 million followers. I mean, I’m going to be honest with you, I couldn’t pick him out of a line-up, I’ve no idea who the guy is.

“We had Chris Eubank doing boxing – I’ve got to tell you, you don’t want to miss that. That was really something… he took to the game. At one point he stopped talking, just kept doing the thumbs up. But we got him back.”

A show perfectly designed to adhere to social distancing guidelines (even if that wasn’t the intention), The Wheel, McIntyre hopes, will serve up dramatic tension and joyful celebration in equal measure.

“The wheel can stop at random, that’s the key thing I keep forgetting to say. I’m so worried that people will think in any way that the wheel is fixed,” says the comedian.

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“I’m used to cynical viewers with the Big Show – I don’t think I’ve met a single person who believes any of those things are real. The other night, nobody won and I found it very, very depressing and upsetting – but apparently you have to have it.

“I always want someone to win – especially in 2020. Can we please just have a happy ending?”

Michael McIntyre’s The Wheel starts on BBC One on Saturday, November 28.

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