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ABC announced this week that it is bringing back The Gong Show, a classic competition series that originally ran in the late seventies and again in the 1980s. If you've never watched the original, it has some similarities to America's Got Talent, the juggernaut competition series that has ran on NBC for the last eleven seasons. However, instead of an x, The Gong Show features judges judging amateur contestants with various talents by using a giant gong.
The new version of The Gong Show has already been ordered to series by ABC. According to a press release from the network, 10 episodes have already been ordered. So far, that's about as far as ABC has gotten. Will Arnett is executive producing, and the show is expected to feature a revolving door of judges once it moves forward. Along with Will Arnett, Evan Prager, Jesse Ignjatovic and Peter Principato will all serve as executive producers on The Gong Show. In addition, Jared Morell, Jordan Barrow and Marc Forman will co-executive produce.
The original version of The Gong Show began airing in 1976. During the time it was on the air, a ton of different judges popped in. Frequent judges included Jamie Farr, Arte Johnson, Steve Garvey, Rex Reed, Anson Williams and more. Those competing on the series were never professional performers. In fact, a lot of the competitors were completely talentless and difficult to watch. The rule was that the judges had to wait a certain time before they could "gong" the contestants offstage, resulting in plenty of antics between the judges and more. Presumably, ABC is sticking pretty close to the original format for the new version.
We've known for years that goofy and sometimes downright terrible contestants can make for pretty amusing TV. We saw terrible contestants for years on American Idol and we still occasionally see them on shows like the aforementioned America's Got Talent. Sprinkle in a few truly rewarding acts and you usually have a show that will get audiences interested. With that in mind, it's easy to see why The Gong Show seemed like a good pitch.
Weirdly, however, this is a format that Comedy Central tried just a few years ago. The cable network signed on for The Gong Show with Dave Attell back in 2008. It only lasted for eight episodes on Comedy Central before the network ultimately decided the campy gong premise was not a good fit for the network. It didn't work for Comedy Central, but evidently ABC believes the masses will eat it up if it's on network TV. We'll have to wait and find out.
In the meantime, while variety formats have not always had an easy go of it in recent years--think Neil Patrick Harris' failed series--there are still plenty of options for game and variety shows on television. To find out more about what is coming up this fall, check out our fall TV premiere schedule.