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NBC Insider Deal or No Deal Island

Host Joe Manganiello Explains Which Game Shows Inspired Deal or No Deal Island

Survivor, Big Brother, and Fear Factor meet the classic briefcase-opening game in NBC's new reality series. 

By James Grebey

Deal or No Deal is back, but it’s not just the game you remember from the show’s heyday in the '00s. Deal or No Deal Island, which premieres on NBC on February 26, combines the classic game's high-stakes briefcase opening with elements of several other reality shows. As host Joe Manganiello explained, it’s “a seamless blend.” He should know — he’s something of a game show expert.

How to Watch

Watch Deal or No Deal Island Mondays at 9:30/8:30c on NBC and next day on Peacock.

“I’ve always been a big gamer since I was young,” Manganiello told NBC Insider ahead of Deal or No Deal Island’s premiere. He grew up watching Press Your Luck, Jeopardy, Password, and all the other classic game shows. But, he’s also very familiar with the more physical reality shows that make up part of Deal or No Deal Island’s gameplay. 

What survival shows inspired Deal or No Deal Island?

“I’m a Survivor junkie. I’ve seen almost every season of Survivor. I’ve seen almost every single episode of Naked and Afraid, Naked and Afraid XL. I love flying around and adventuring. Bear Grylls, stuff like that,” Manganiello explained. “This show — the new version — really spoke to a lot of different parts of my personality.”

RELATED: How Do Deal or No Deal Island's Challenges and Classic Briefcases Work?

Aron Barbell and Rob Mariano sit on the ground in Deal or No Deal Episode 101.

Deal or No Deal Island takes 13 contestants (including Survivor veteran Boston Rob) and places them on the Banker’s Private Island. In each episode, they’ll participate in various challenges in an attempt to make the ultimate prize money — $200 million total, the biggest in Deal or No Deal history — as large a sum as it can possibly be. At the end of each episode, after they’re done braving thick mud or slithering serpents, one contestant will play a traditional game of Deal or No Deal, and somebody is getting sent home. There’s a lot going on, drawing on aspects of reality shows like Fear Factor, Big Brother, and Survivor. That’s not an accident, as Manganiello explained.

Deal or No Deal Island was created by competition reality experts

“Our showrunner Matt Kunitz created Fear Factor,” he said. “So, right out of the gate, everything comes down from of him. Then you’ve got the story team from Big Brother. They’re behind the scenes watching everything as it develops and they understand, in documentary fashion, how to take that amorphous cloud of footage and show people’s character. The whole crew is from Survivor.”

RELATED: How Do Deal or No Deal Island's Challenges and Classic Briefcases Work?

The behind-the-scenes talent, naturally, shaped the gameplay.

Joe Manganiello hosts Deal or No Deal Episode 101.

“Some of the challenges were physical, some of them were mental, some of them were fear-based. You had to overcome some insane fear that most human beings have,” Manganiello said. “That’s the Fear Factor element. If we put you up 100 feet in the air tied to something and drop you — are you ready for that? Can you do that? Can you function?”

Mangellio said part of his role on the series to help ensure this mixing of aspects of challenge-based reality shows like Survivor or Fear Factor, the narrative intrigue of Big Brother, and Deal or No Deal works like a charm. 

“My job is then to be able to shift from jungle excursion to having a really intimate conversation with someone about their dreams, their hopes, who they’re playing for, what they’re playing for,” he said. “Then I set up for the audience. This game of Deal or No Deal could either wind up fulfilling someone’s dreams or completely breaking their heart for the rest of their life.”

Deal or No Deal Island will premiere with a 90-minute special at 9:30 p.m. on Monday, February 26, 2024. Following this supersized first episode, subsequent episodes will air on its regularly scheduled timeslot starting on Monday, March 4 at 10 p.m.

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