BuzzFeed visited the set of the revamped version of the classic game show, hosted by Wayne Brady. The largely improvised reboot is surprisingly weird.
A man in a turkey suit and his zebra mother stood behind a giant strawberry in line to be in the audience of Let’s Make a Deal.
Garrett Smith, the turkey, was in Los Angeles with his mother, Julie Balzer, vacationing before his reassignment to the Army base at Fort Bragg. Later, they were sitting in the audience when producer Chris Ahearn announced that there were a lot of “Marines here today.” Balzer pointed proudly at her Army son and said something inaudible over the cheers of 200 people. Her son smiled and then promptly shushed her.
Ernie Collazo, the production manager at Let’s Make a Deal, explained that the line to be in the audience is “designed to be like a ride,” with snacks, costumes to rent if you didn’t bring your own, and a big green screen if you want a souvenir photo.
In the waiting area, a woman dressed as an oven with her pregnant belly poking out of the oven door passed us on her way to the bathroom. “I’ll be out there a lot today!” she said. She closed her oven door, covering up the bun.
“They don’t have to dress up to attend the show, participate, but we do encourage it,” Collazo said.
This morning, Collazo said the final number of audience members (“traders,” he called them) was 205, and it seemed they were all wearing something odd.
Mike Richards, executive producer of Let’s Make a Deal, has a giant blue sign in his blue office.
The sign, he said, used to be on set, and he always found it hideously ugly. When the set was finally designed and the sign was removed, he found it in his office the next day.
Richards was one of the people who pitched the Let’s Make a Deal reboot to CBS; originally, it was pitched as a half-hour show, which was the length of the original Monty Hall–hosted version in the ’60s and ’70s.
“They said, ‘Can you make this an hour?’ And I said, ‘N-yes.'”
Part of what makes it work as an hour-long game of “do you want this, or do you want that?” as Richards put it, is Brady’s madcap improvisation, which includes occasionally making unscripted offers (recently, an unauthorized offer of $5,000) and frequently ignoring the producers’ suggestions as to which audience members to make deals with.
“Our job is to build it so he can’t break it,” Richards said.
Stage manager Dency Nelson retired as stage manager for the Oscars this year. Let’s Make a Deal will be his last stage managing gig.
“This is my swan song,” Nelson said as he stood just below the center platform where Brady makes his deals. He said there was something poetic about working his last stage managing job at Bronson Studios since one of his first jobs was on the same lot. Nelson got his start “guarding doughnuts and answering phones” at Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman.