As Olympics fever starts to sweep the world, entertainer Michael McIntyre is delighted to be putting a sporting spin on his latest Saturday-night smash hit, The Wheel.
The BBC1 game show, which made its debut last November, sees contestants try to answer their way to a fortune with the help of celebrities sat around the wheel. Each famous face has a specialist subject and, in a twist for three episodes, there will be an Olympic star on the rota to celebrate the Tokyo 2020 Games.
First up is Clare Balding, who has presented live coverage from six Olympic Games, including London 2012, five Paralympic Games, and five Winter Olympic Games. Here, sports fan Michael, 45, tells us what to expect…
How would you describe The Wheel for anyone who hasn’t seen it before?
"The Wheel is a very funny and dramatic gameshow. Seven celebrities sit around an enormous spinning wheel with a contestant in the middle. Each expert brings with them a category they are (or feel they are!) an expert in. All the contestant has to do is answer a multiple-choice question in each of the categories with the help of a celebrity who is spun around and randomly selected. But if they get a question wrong they are off the wheel and lowered to the contestant wheel where there are two other contestants. The contestant wheel is spun and they have a one in three chance of returning each time. Sorry, that answer seemed very long-winded. Just watch it. It’s fabulous! Oh, and the theme tune is sensationally catchy!"
Haha! What more can you tell us about these special episodes?
"To coincide with the Olympics we've made three specials. Basically, there is a sports expert and category on the wheel each week, like Clare Balding on the Olympics, and Greg Rutherford on London 2012 [Greg won the men’s long jump gold medal]. The rest of the wheel is filled with an array of celebs and categories as per usual."
Which other celebrities will be taking part?
"We have an amazing line-up for the Olympic specials including Anton Du Beke on dancing, Rob Rinder on the law, Edith Bowman on film, and Nigel Havers on theatre."
How is your general knowledge? And how is your sporting knowledge?
"I think that my extraordinary lack of general knowledge has really helped with the drama of the show as I rarely have any idea what the correct answer is, so my joy when the correct is revealed is always genuine. But, I have to say, sport would be my best category for sure. If I was a contestant on The Wheel I would always pick anything to do with sport first and then rely entirely on the experts for the remainder of the game!"
If you were competing in The Olympics, what would your chosen sport be and why?
"Dressage. So I can just sit there — probably on my phone — while the horse does its thing."
Why do you think The Wheel was popular with viewers when it launched last year?
"I've been overwhelmed with the success of The Wheel. It takes time for a new format to bed in, mainly so that viewers can get to grips with the rules and variations in gameplay. Every game is so different and that is a great strength of the format. We've just filmed the Olympic specials plus a new series for the autumn, and the shows are even better now…"
Why do you reckon that is?
"Mainly because the contestants and experts all know what the show is now and are excited to be part of it. Also, as we filmed them after the long winter lockdown, everyone was giddy just to be out of the house and surrounded by new people!"
The Wheel starts on Saturday 24 July at 8.30pm on BBC1
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