Howie Mandel, <EM>Deal or No Deal</EM> Howie Mandel, Deal or No Deal

If tonight's season premiere of the prime-time Deal or No Deal (8 pm/ET, NBC) reignites your hunger for cash-filled suitcases, glam models and Howie Mandel's sexy-smooth dome, you're about to be sated quite nicely. Starting Monday, Sept. 8, a syndicated daily version of the red-hot game show hits the airwaves, streamlining the game play, yet serving up even more of what makes the series such a big Deal. Mandel shared a look at the half-hour version's tweaks and twists as well as previewed the nighttime edition's upcoming thrills. The last time you and I spoke was on the Ferris wheel at the Times Square Toys R Us....
Howie Mandel: Oh, I remember that! So this time we should meet where? [Laughs] What was your reaction when they first suggested syndicated Deal or No Deal?
Mandel: They actually came up with the concept really early on, at the end of the first or second season. There was also buzz that they might consider a different host for that version, to make it "different." But when it solidified and they decided to launch it, I was just happy that they decided to go with me. It would have crushed me to see someone else ride my pony. Does your paycheck proportionately increase by 350 percent?
Mandel: You know I do this out of the goodness of my heart. It's not the money. Did you think, "Well, we'll have to cut back on this, maybe on that.... Maybe a little less banter..."?
Mandel: No. In fact, you get more contestants. We have all the elements that people love — the Banker, the steps, the models, the host and big money. We decreased the amount of cases to 22, so you have a better chance to win the big money. And one of the highlights of the show is the contestants — they work really hard to find people you can relate to and want to watch and who need the money — so in any given episode of the syndicated version we have 22 contestants. Those are the people holding the cases. Two models, Tameka and Patricia from our prime-time show, spin a wheel and determine who gets to play. That person comes down and plays, while the 21 remaining contestants open the cases. Throughout the week you'll get to know this "wall of contestants." And because it's only 22 minutes, we're opening cases much faster, but all the banter — and more — is there. It's higher energy, a faster, more furious game. If I'm one of the 21 contestants on the stage, do I have any financial stake in what the player wins? Do I get a percent?
Mandel: There are elements where you can win something, little surprises, yes. There should be a case where if you pick it, the player has to switch places with the person on stage.
Mandel: That’s a good idea. Thank you. You're not only interviewing, you're producing. I like that. Turning to the prime-time version, I see you on TV promising a million-dollar winner this season.
Mandel: Absolutely. That’s awesome.
Mandel: It is awesome. People have always said to me, "Has anybody ever won the million?" — the insinuation being that you can't win the million. The truth is that 18 people have had the top prize in their case, but it just so happens that those 18 people chose to take the deal and walk out. It's just how the game played out. This season, it's very different. How would you describe the reaction of the first million-dollar winner?
Mandel: Gotta watch for that. Im not giving that away! That’s the reason to tune in. Are there any themes to watch for this season? Last spring we had Star Wars, Ellen DeGeneres and some Office cast members got involved....
Mandel: There are, but again, those are surprises I can't reveal. They're surprises for the audience and the contestants. There are themes in the syndicated version, too. We have theme weeks with, like, 22 pregnant women.... That's asking for trouble!
Mandel: Yeah, I know! It's not an exciting, emotional roller coaster as it is. Why not add hormones into that? Do you have an OB/GYN off camera at the ready?
Mandel: We had to! So we did.

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