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Genius Game UK in Development

7 Apr 2023

Remarkable working on version for major UK broadcaster

Remarkable Entertainment is spearheading a Banijay Group-wide adaptation of CJ ENM’s hit Korean gameshow format The Genius Game. Simon Crossley, head of development at the Survivor, Big Brother and Pointless indie, has been the driving force behind the super-indie’s optioning of the survival gameshow, which will also be adapted by Banijay’s Mastiff TV in Denmark and Norway. 

The Genius Game, which first aired on Korean network tvN in 2014, tests players’ intelligence and social savviness. Players are chosen, based on their social IQ, charisma, charm and intelligence, to participate in a unique battle of wits and manipulation.  

They compete in the Main Match and the Death Match, where their analytical reasoning, attention to detail, memory, and loyalty is challenged. They must form secret alliances and assess who to trust or betray to survive and become crowned the genius.

In each episode, one contestant is eliminated. Crossley told Broadcast he’d been tracking the format since 2015 after becoming “enamoured by its originality in editing style and approach to loving games”.  Speaking alongside Remarkable co-managing director Tamara Gilder, Crossley said the gameshow fitted the “arced reality format” which the gameshow market “is becoming more receptive to”. “The format champions and loves cerebral intelligence and is very much a ‘sit forward’ watch rather than a ‘sit back’ watch.

The fact The Genius Game makes you lean forward really appeals to people who are fans of video games or board games or other types of cerebral games,” he said. “And while you’re watching these incredibly intelligent people play these games, it’s almost like watching an HBO drama in a way, because there’s lots kind of backstabbing and there’s a lot of reality. Audiences are very savvy and like to discover things that are different.”   

Gilder added the way the show is edited feels more like a drama than a traditional gameshow and played into the styles of unscripted entertainment the streamers are looking for with “arced storytelling rather than standalone, closed episode games or quizzes”. “I think there’s something in the purity of it as a format,” she said. “There’s no way that we’re saying this is the death of a traditional quiz. But in The Genius Game there are some really clever, tricky individual games – parlour games which rely on using your personal skills.”  

Jumping in early on a hot property Crossley said he was encouraged to snap up the format after seeing Dutch broadcaster NTR had commissioned an adaptation, which aired for eight episodes in October.  “I got in very early. I woke up at 5.30 or 6.30 in the morning and saw a Twitter link about the Dutch version and before I got into the office, I emailed our Banijay acquisitions chief to put a call out to CJ ENM because I knew a western version would help bolster our format.” 

Tamara GilderGilder and Crossley both acknowledged it is a rarity for Remarkable, whose strengths lie in “smart, cerebral gameshows”, and Banijay to option a format, given that Banijay’s main development is “absolutely committed to coming up with new ideas”. “The Genius Game is a bit of an outlier in terms of development portfolio, and we’ve got a suitcase full of our ideas ready to go alongside this format,” he said. “We see a lot of third-party formats and you can get a little swept up in that, it takes something special for us to take the plunge and option. “Korean formats have a sense of fun in them, and their audiences love a mechanic and having entertainment for entertainment’s sake.

In the UK over the past few years, commissioning decisions have slightly gone down the route of: why now? What I love about Korean formats is that they don’t think like this, they just ask: is this a fun show, yes, let’s make it.” Gilder added: “This is the show we’d all like to make. When you option something you can look at the reasons and think this would work commercially etc, but if we get this away, we’d absolutely love making this. That’s the highest compliment you can give to a format.” 

Gilder and Crossley said they are sticking very close to the original format and are “still in conversations with CJ ENM, working closely in collaboration with them on all our changes”. They said they would draw on the NTR version to help visualise what a UK version will look like to buyers. In NTR’s adaptation the contestants were drawn from a variety of fields in which they excel, including a chief exec, a criminal lawyer and a chess champion. “The whole premise is based on the fact that genius comes in different forms,” Gilder added.  

Diane Min, head of format sales at CJ ENM said the Korean giant is “overjoyed to create opportunities for The Genius Game” in the international market.“With the elements of a hit show, including problem solving skills, social skills and the betrayal element, it is a show that can entertain viewers from all territories,” she added.

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