This is the year of firsts. For the first time, the game show trophy will be awarded as part of the Primetime Emmys ceremony (which has been delayed to January), instead of the Daytime Emmys. Additionally, it’s the first time in many years that a new show has broken into the game show category.
In addition to longtime series “Family Feud” (which bowed in 1976), “Wheel of Fortune” (1983), “Jeopardy” (1964) and “The Price Is Right” (1972), NBC’s “That’s My Jam” landed a spot in the category for its second season. Debuting in 2021, the variety show is exec produced and hosted by 17-time nominee Jimmy Fallon, inspired by what he does in the late-night space with “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.”
“I think ‘That’s My Jam’ resonates with people because it’s a very different kind of game show, with comedy and music at its core,” says executive producer and showrunner Mike Yurchuk. “It’s pure entertainment. It has celebrities cutting loose, getting competitive, playing fun games and performing in ridiculous ways … I don’t think there is anything quite like it on TV.”
It’s not an easy category, especially for new programming; “Jeopardy,” which has 19 overall wins and 38 nominations in the category, won the last three years in a row. “The Price Is Right” has eight wins and 36 nominations while “Wheel of Fortune” has 21 noms and “Family Feud” has 16 noms and two wins.
“To be in categories with perennials is such a huge honor. Jimmy adores television and has encyclopedic knowledge of every format,” says executive producer Jim Juvonen. “If he wasn’t one of the most legendary hosts of all time, he’d be the most prolific producer of game shows and musical variety shows. Right now, he’s doing both.”
The Universal-produced, 10-episode second season broke through much more than the show’s first season, streaming on Peacock and increasing 70% in total viewers. It also garnered big names, with appearances by Kelsea Ballerini, Quinta Brunson, Taraji P. Henson, Keke Palmer and Billy Porter, among others.
“Sometimes we partner guests together that have no connection to each other besides a mutual admiration for each other. Chance the Rapper and Joseph Gordon-Levitt didn’t know each other but were huge fans of each other’s work and became best friends by the end of it,” says Yurchuk. Sometimes, it also leads to jobs: Taraji P. Henson told Brunson she’d love to appear on “Abbott Elementary” while on set. Henson went on to play Brunson’s mother on the ABC mockumentary — and earned a guest Emmy nom for the spot.
“I think it’s incredible that their friendship started on our show,” Yurchuk adds. “Sometimes the secret is booking the best guests we can and letting the chips fall where they may in terms of scheduling. Will.i.am and Joel McHale might not be the first pairing you think of, but seeing Will jump into Joel’s arms and have the time of his life is what you hope for as far as the guest experience goes.”
However, Juvonen says Fallon is the show’s real secret ingredient.
“He does his homework, he listens, he cares so much about his guests and what will help them score. He hears the name of someone who might come on the show and immediately has three ideas for them. That plus the collaboration with production is spot on,” the producer says.
“The show feels like it comes straight out of Jimmy’s brain — he’s the Willy Wonka in this music and comedy and pop culture chocolate factory, and our guests don’t hesitate to jump in and follow his lead.”
- ‘That’s My Jam’ Producers on Striking Gold With Jimmy Fallon’s Game Show: ‘He’s the Willy Wonka’
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