11:00am PT by Michael O'Connell
Mark Burnett and Mike Darnell Partnering on ABC Game Show '500 Questions'
Mark Burnett and Mike Darnell are getting the old band back together.
The Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader? producers, who've collaborated on a slew of reality projects over the years, have gotten a direct-to-series order from ABC for their next project. The network will air 500 Questions (working title), a collaboration between Burnett's One Three Media and Darnell's Warner Horizon Television — where he assumed the role of unscripted and alternative TV president after leaving Fox in 2013.
There aren't a tremendous amount of details on the new game show, which is being billed as an "event," though it will test the intelligence (and nerve) of contestants in a high-pressure environment. “I love this show," said Burnett. " It is the first network game show to combine what audiences love about serialized unscripted hits with a huge game show event. It has ongoing characters and huge stakes."
The stakes are also high for ABC's head of reality Lisa Berger, who picks up this project on the heels of her first big swing (singing competition Rising Star) struggling in its summer run. Burnett has certainly proved bankable for the network. One of several heavy hitters he has across the Big Four right now, Shark Tank returns to ABC for its sixth season this fall — its ratings still on the rise.
Reality producers and execs alike haven't been particularly bullish on game shows since NBC's Million Second Quiz proved to be a high-profile flop last September. This marks the first big move in the genre since Fox bought Keshet format Boom! in April.
“I couldn’t be more excited to be back in business with my close friend and colleague Mark Burnett," added Darnell. "We have done many shows together over the years, but one of our best experiences (both professionally and personally) was Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?, and ever since, we have been trying to come up with another game show that would break new ground. I think we have finally cracked it with 500 Questions, and with Mark and his team on board, I have no doubt this is going to be the next international game show hit.”
500 Questions (or whatever it's ultimately called) is expected to debut next year.