A beloved actor-director adds another hyphen as TGIF host.
Fred Savage never planned on hosting a game show.
Best known for his adolescent run on The Wonder Years and, more recently, costarring roles on Fox’s short-lived The Grinder and Netflix’s current Friends from College, he didn’t even see ABC’s Child Support coming . “But sometimes that’s when the most exciting opportunities arise,” he says. “When you’re looking in the opposite direction.”
With the first season under his belt, Savage — who also regularly directs episodic TV — is looking forward to the next10 hour-long episodes. The production, from Banijay Studios North America, returns October 5 as part of ABC’s new TGIF lineup.
On the show, adult contestants answer up to 10 questions, hoping to win a $200,000 grand prize. Correct answers move them forward, while wrong answers can be amended by a group of five children who’ve been asked the same questions. Following each contestant’s answer, Savage throws to pre-taped segments with the panel of six-to ten-year-olds, which Ricky Gervais moderates.
Savage has not yet met with Gervais — who serves as an executive producer, along with David Goldberg, Caroline Baumgard, Jeff Krask and Michael Canter — but they’ve had calls and exchanged emails. Gervais gives Savage advice about performing live and working with an audience.
Longtime friend and fellow game show host Jane Lynch also offered support. “I ran into her when I was wondering whether or not I should do this,” Savage says. She reminded him that a live audience doesn’t equal a live broadcast. “So if you screw up, you can stop and go back. There’s a safety net under you, and that gives you a lot of confidence.”
Now he’s anything but apprehensive. In fact, Savage was so enthusiastic during the first season that he began to lose his voice from shouting. “Finding out that MIT offers a pirate certification — that blew my mind,” says the host, who does not preview the questions.
He even had to be reminded — via earpiece while taping — not to travel into areas without adequate camera coverage. “I was told there were going to be more cameras” this season, he says. “I don’t know if that was always the plan, or if that was a result of my wandering.
“I really got invested in the contestants,” he says. “In their successes, their failures, and their personal stories. And at a certain point pretty early on, I kind of forgot I was hosting a show.”
This article originally appeared in emmy magazine, Issue No. 9, 2018