Posted by Mark Newton @mark
Writer, cynic, Walter Mitty day-dreamer. Email: [email protected]
Mark Newton

Imagine a cross between Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader and Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? You've just imagined Five to Survive, a new quiz show starring and devised by Ricky Gervais.

Having conquered television sitcom, podcasts, stand-up, film and harassing celebrities at the Golden Globes, English comedian Ricky Gervais is now boldly forging a new path into the world of ABC game shows.

Unlike the quiz show devised by his The Office character, titled 'Upstairs Downstairs', Five To Survive does not feature any running upstairs to acquire clues, however, like many gameshows these days, it does have its own quirky gimmicks to shake things up.

According to Variety, Five To Survive will feature Gervais and a panel of children aiding adult contestants in their attempt to answer 10 questions for a cash prize. If a contestant gets an answer wrong, they are offered a chance to be 'rescued' by Gervais or one of five kids. I wonder if they'll be any questions about Dostoyevsky or a 'double or quits' throwing competition?

Regarding his new colleagues, Gervais had this to say:

“I’ve never understood the saying ‘never work with animals or children. As a producer and director, I prefer either to Hollywood actors. They’re cheaper, they do as they’re told, and the filming hours are better.”

Gervais, who presented the idea for Five To Survive to ABC, will also executive produce the show, but it's not immediately clear who will actually host it, as Gervais's role helping to answer questions means it's unlikely he'll actually ask the questions himself. So who could host Five To Survive? Well, personally I would like to see him reteam with one of his past collaborators, but who's résumé is best suited for hosting a game show? Let's take a look.

Stephen Merchant


The first name which clearly springs to mind is Gervais's long time collaborator Stephen Merchant. The duo, who originally worked on a London-based radio show together, broke onto the scene with their comedic masterpiece The Office in 2001. This was followed up with projects such as Extras, Life's Too Short, An Idiot Abroad, Cemetery Junction and hours upon hours of podcasts.

So, could Stephen Merchant handle hosting a show? Well, he certainly has well-established chemistry with Gervais and, I would argue, a more 'straight man' persona that would fit as a host. However, most importantly of all, he has some real world quizzing experience. Back in his early wistful misspent youth, Merchant appeared on the legendary British quiz show Blockbusters (although admittedly on the less-legendary rebooted version). But, as he explains in the video below, the experience may have left him reticent to return to the format.

However, it seems the two have ended (or at least put a hiatus) on collaborating together, with both comedians now working on their own projects.

Karl Pilkington


Another longtime collaborator (although perhaps less willingly) of Gervais and Merchant, Karl Pilkington has become a phenomenon for his strange perspective on life — and possessing a fruit-shaped head.

Pilkington has now appeared in many Gervais projects, namely The Ricky Gervais Show, An Idiot Abroad and Derek, but also previously acted as a producer on the trio's XFM radio show. In most of these projects, Pilkington is constantly berated by Gervais for his ignorance of pretty much everything and his lazy attitude towards work, which could certainly make for a fun dynamic on a quiz show. What's more, Pilkington has come up with many pun-based game show ideas himself. Who can forget such classics as Rockbusters (a pun on the above mentioned Blockbusters) and The Rice is Right?

Unfortunately, much like Merchant, Pilkington has worked less with Gervais recently, with his latest project, The Moaning of Life, not featuring Gervais or Merchant at all. What's more, he probably still has grouting to do and a boiler to fix.

Louis CK


Sharing the same penchant for provocative humor, dark emotive sitcoms and generally being a bit old, it makes perfect sense that Louis CK and Ricky Gervais would collaborate together. Initially, Gervais appeared in Louis CK's Louie as an inappropriate doctor, while Louis would later take a supporting role in Gervais's The Invention of Lying. Both would later join Jerry Seinfeld and Chris Rock for HBO's Talking Funny. Oh, they also once shared a particularly bumpy plane ride.

Throwing Louis CK and Ricky Gervais into a quiz show format with a bunch of kids is certainly likely to result in some comedy gold, and perhaps the odd swearing scandal or two. What's more, CK also has quizzing experience, having appeared on both the real Jeopardy AND SNL's Black Jeopardy parody.

Les Dennis and/or Keith Chegwin

BBC - Dennis in middle, Chegwin on right. Barry from Eastenders (left) can come too.
BBC - Dennis in middle, Chegwin on right. Barry from Eastenders (left) can come too.

Now, I imagine to many of our US based readers, these names are complete mysteries. However, in Gervais's native UK, both Dennis and Chegwin are iconic game show hosts from the 1990s. Dennis, in particular, was known for hosting the UK version of Family Feud (retitled Family Fortunes in the UK), while Chegwin famously hosted a game show, Naked Jungle, completely naked. The clue was in the name.

Gervais seems to have somewhat of a fascination with these guys, with the pair playing washed up and depressed versions of themselves in both Extras and Life's Too Short. So, could either of them host Five To Survive? Well, they definitely have the most gameshow experience out of anyone on this list, although their profile is likely to not exactly excite ABC producers. Having said that, Gervais does have a habit of taking a terrestrial British unknown and exporting them over to the States, so, perhaps Dennis and 'Cheggers' can finally break America? Anyway, here they all are discussing killing themselves in Life's Too Short.

Pitching and appearing in a quiz show seems like a bit of a strange move from Gervais, who traditionally only appears in a handful of projects. It will be interesting to see how his style and approach translates to a presumably weekly game show, especially considering most of his television series featured short seasons of only six or seven episodes. But perhaps we shouldn't worry too much. After all, he is basically a chilled out entertainer.


Who would you want to host Five To Survive