What possesses celebs to do Hollywood Squares? It's simple. The cheesy game show is a guilty pleasure for couch potatoes and great PR for Tinseltown types to plug their projects. "It's one big promotional orgy," admits Brad Garrett, whose Emmy-winning Everybody Loves Raymond role often is "mentioned" on-air. Since Whoopi Goldberg vamoosed reportedly over a money dispute A-list celebs have been subbing in her center square to get maximum exposure.
"You're called on a lot more there," Garrett says. "There's pressure to be funny more often. I enjoyed the top upper left corner, where I was actually able to read a book. But at the end of the day, it's just tic-tac-toe, babe."
"I'm doing a talk show which comes out in a year," Ellen DeGeneres explains, "and this is actually a really good thing for me, to remind people what I do. I think people have [forgotten] that I'm just a person who's funny. So I thought Hollywood Squares was a good way to reach the audience again.
"That's mainly why I did it," adds the funnylady. "Also, I get to write my own jokes and be myself. It's not like I'm on there doing something that I don't approve of politically, so it's just a fun show."
Still, Whoopi's seat is a big space to fill. Er, well... you know what we mean. "I think Whoopi just wanted to move on," Garrett says. "She did great stuff for the show and she's so multi-talented. She's got a lot of pride... and she felt it was time to move on." (Translation: Whoopi no longer was being paid enough to endure Dyan Cannon's weird hyena laughter.)
Besides DeGeneres and Garrett, this year's other big names in the center square will include Alec Baldwin, Magic Johnson and Burt Reynolds. "The show has a ratings battle ahead of them," Garrett notes, fully aware that Squares's Nielsens are down 17 percent from this time last season. "They're trying to bump up those ratings, so they're doing whatever they can."