Alan Carr still playing his TV cards right with return of new series

TV has undoubtedly helped the nation get through the last 12 months – especially game shows which all the family can watch together.

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And what’s not to love about classic formats, say, Play Your Cards Right, or Bullseye, being re-imagined, and given “a bit of steroids, pumped up ready for Saturday night”, as loveable host Alan Carr puts it?

After the understandably huge success of Alan Carr’s Epic Gameshow in the first lockdown last spring, the brand new second series has been lengthened (we’re getting 10 episodes, and a Christmas special).

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Here, we chat to 44-year-old comedian Carr, to find out more…

WHAT’S DIFFERENT ABOUT ALAN CARR’S EPIC GAMESHOW THIS TIME AROUND?

We’ve added Name That Tune. I remember that from the distant ages, with Lionel Blair and Maggie Moone, and I was like, ‘That’s a bit of an odd choice’. But then, if you watch the American one, it’s full-on funky band, live singers singing the songs, and it’s so exciting and fun.

You know when you listen to the opening few bars and you’ve got to guess what the song is? Oh my God, it messes with your head. But I can’t wait to do that. They test all the gameplay on me. I’m like a gameshow guinea pig.

BECAUSE OF COVID-19 RESTRICTIONS, THERE’S NO AUDIENCE, RIGHT?

I know! Now it’s just two cameramen and a cleaner, so I hope they cheer quite loudly. But then, I’ve seen some shows and they pipe in the canned laughter and you’re like, ‘Who’s laughing at that? There’s no one in the audience!’ So, I feel we’ve got to strike a balance really.

WHAT IS IT ABOUT THE SHOW THAT HAS MADE IT SO POPULAR?

I feel the pandemic helps. People were stuck in; they couldn’t leave the house. But then also, I think it’s tapped into nostalgia. Nostalgia is so powerful, and it was such an odd year, 2020. After the madness of [Netflix documentary series] Tiger King, I think people wanted something that was a bit safe. Especially when you’re missing your family, you haven’t seen your mum and dad; memories of sitting in the lounge on a Saturday night probably tugged a few heartstrings.

DO YOU WATCH GAME SHOWS IN YOUR DOWNTIME?

Would you say Naked Attraction, is that a game show? Sex is the prize… That’s not a bad prize. I wouldn’t say no!

I love a bit of Tipping Point; I sit there and sometimes the dog starts watching it. It’s just like the going in and out and the coins falling, it can be quite trance-like.

I like The Chase. Did you hear those rumours, people thought The Governess [Anne Hegerty] was my mum? We did a jokey thing and I pretended she was my mum – and then people thought she actually was my mum…

OTHER THAN TV, WHAT ELSE HAS HELPED YOU MAKE IT THROUGH LOCKDOWN?

I’ve regressed to being 13-year-old Alan. So, I’ve done a lot of bird watching, and then jigsaws, which I’m getting through like one a week. I mean, it’s so boring. This lockdown has definitely been a bit harsher, especially January, February.

I’m normally a very upbeat, optimistic person, but even I was going, ‘When is this ever going to end?’ And then you get a little taster of what might have been, there’s whisperings that you might be able to go on holiday, and then you’re uplifted – and then it’s a £5,000 fine if you do go abroad.

EVERYONE’S BEEN BAKING BANANA BREAD DURING THE PANDEMIC. HAVE YOU HONED YOUR RECIPE?

Well, that’s it, I just ballooned! Just eating, and then you realise that when you’re out and about working, you do burn off some calories, but I was just sitting around like a slob and I was just wearing tracksuit bottoms.

I mean, anything with a belt – terrifying.

I feel like I’ve put on so much weight that, actually, I became one of those high-risk groups and maybe could have had the [Covid-19] vaccine quicker. And I still haven’t had it. I’m just gagging for my jab, I want my jab!

IN RECENT MONTHS, YOU’VE PRESENTED INTERIOR DESIGN MASTERS, YOU DID AN EPISODE OF DNA JOURNEY AND YOU STARTED A PODCAST. YOU’RE SO BUSY…

The thing is, it’s like variety is the spice of life. It’s weird because when Chatty Man finished, I was a bit like, ‘Oh God, what am I going to do now?’ I loved that chat show.

When things finish, you think, ‘It’s over’ but you realise sometimes, it’s just the beginning of something else. So, I have been really busy, but they’re all very different things.

WITH SO MUCH GOING ON, HOW DO YOU KEEP YOURSELF FROM BURNING OUT?

I mean, seeing 10 very talented interior designers is not hard work – it’s an absolute joy. I loved that show and I know it’s been very popular, but half of that is because I was so enthusiastic to get out there, and I was sick of the sight of my own bloody wallpaper.

To see someone else’s wallpaper, that was just lovely.

RuPaul’s Drag Race UK [which he is a judge on] is just so much fun; no surface goes un-sequined. All the shows came along at the right time, it was just what I needed.

And now, I’m going to pop my gameshow host hat on and try and win some members of the public some gorgeous prizes, loads of money and cars and stuff.

I’m not being all “woke” and “worthy” but people in the NHS and carers are having such a s*** time, so I can’t complain. I’m having a lovely time, and I hope people enjoy it.

Alan Carr’s Epic Gameshow returns to ITV tomorrow, 8.35pm