Typically when television creators want to gather ideas, they huddle in a writers’ room or maybe head out to a long expense-account lunch. When the creators of “Minute to Win It” need inspiration, they head to Target or a hardware store.
“Minute to Win It,” on NBC on Wednesday nights this summer, is a throwback to old-time game shows like “Beat the Clock” that were ingenious in their simplicity. It requires no extreme weight loss, no tribal alliances, no consumption of cow eyeballs. Instead it relies on simple challenges using household staples like beach balls, M&M’s, pantyhose, Hula-Hoops, toothbrushes and toilet paper.
“We’ve gotten some strange stares in the checkout line,” said Heath Luman, one of the supervising producers.
Johnny Applestack, a typical challenge, involves stacking five apples into a single free-standing tower in less than a minute. It is harder than it might sound, especially when $1 million, the show’s top prize, is at stake. “Even the simplest things can become very complex,” Mr. Luman said.
Applestack and challenges like it have made for oddly successful television. When “Minute to Win It” quietly made its debut in March, it averaged 5.8 million viewers, acceptable by NBC’s standards but not a standout by any means. Having returned for the summer, when network ratings usually dip, “Minute” is increasing its viewership against stiff competition from “Big Brother” on CBS and “So You Think You Can Dance” on Fox. The first two summer episodes had an average of 6.8 million viewers.
“There are some shows that are fun to watch because they’re so big, it’s almost like entering another world,” Mr. Luman said in an interview last week. And then there’s “Minute to Win It,” during which “you can literally go to your cabinet, grab the supplies and play the games with your family during the commercial break.”
The show takes the play-along-at-home mentality of “The Price Is Right” and “Jeopardy” to an extreme, encouraging viewers to practice the games at home and post their performances on YouTube. It even publishes what it calls the blueprints to the games online at nbc.com/minute-to-win-it, essentially grooming future contestants.
WATCH: Bristol and Levi consider reality show