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Howie Mandel makes 26 cases for return of ‘Deal or No Deal’

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LOS ANGELES — CNBC executives have said “deal” to bringing back the television game show “Deal or No Deal.” Almost 10 years since the competition program hosted by Howie Mandel went off the air, new episodes will air on the cable channel.

The new order, which includes 30 one-hour episodes taped at Universal Orlando Resort, begins airing Wednesday. Along with the return of Mandel as host and the models who back him up, the show continues the challenge of having contestants trying to predict which of 26 suitcases will win them $1 million (or leave with as little as one cent).

But the new deal does come with some modifications. The mysterious shadowy figure known as The Banker, who tries to tempt players with confirmed amounts of money, is now a woman. And once she has revealed her offer, players will be allowed to negotiate for a higher sum.

Over the years, Mandel has heard the rumor that there really isn’t a Banker and he’s the one who is setting the counter offers. He stresses there really is a person on the other end of the phone whose job is to look at what is happening strictly from a financial point of view. All contestants are told in advance that the only job of the Banker is to get the player to take the lowest amount or money. Mandel says the only difference is the new Banker seems to be shrewder than he remembers.

Mandel’s excited about returning to the game show, but he wasn’t as eager back in 2005 when he was first offered the opportunity. Comedians hosting game shows are plentiful today, but at that time it was a rarity. Mandel was so concerned about damaging the acting career he had cultivated with projects such as “St. Elsewhere” and “Bobby’s World” that he turned down the hosting job three times.

It was his wife, Terry, who finally convinced Mandel to say yes. The results changed his life and career.

“I went and taped six shows, and I’ve never been more embarrassed in my life, because it was the first time I didn’t show up with an act. I didn’t show up with lines to recite. I didn’t show up with anything prepared. I just thought, ‘You know, I’m just Howie.’ And some people won money and some lives were changed,” Mandel says. “I flew to Miami, and within 30 seconds, the first person said to me, ‘deal or no deal?’

“I had a catchphrase. And the thing just exploded. Then on other networks, you started seeing them hire Jeff Foxworthy to do ‘Am I Smarter than a 5th Grader?’ I think Steve Harvey owes me his entire career.”

“Deal or No Deal” executive producer Scott St. John says selecting Mandel as the host makes the production team look like geniuses in hindsight. Mandel was approached because of his acting and comedy background, but what ended up being his biggest hosting skill is his ability to connect with people. It’s not unusual for Mandel to get emotionally connected when he watches a player turn down a sure money offer that would be enough winnings to change their life.

Mandel knows the game show is about winning (or not winning) money, but he sees it also as an examination of how people act when confronted with major decisions.

“Every day, we make decisions. Maybe not as heavy or as hefty as they have to make in a moment on this game, but that’s what it is. I think it’s all inspirational. It’s all aspirational,” Mandel says. “Even when you watch somebody going wrong, that’s a teaching moment for yourself and whoever is watching us.

“We notice on the show sometimes, because there is a million dollars on the board, at some point, we say, ‘You can have, right now, guaranteed, $21,000.’ And it’s interesting to watch somebody who has told us basically a horror story of their own life say ‘No deal.’ How do you say ‘no deal’ to $20,000? I don’t think I’ve ever been handed and played a game for $20,000. They lose whatever that value is. We talk about that constantly, and that’s what this game teaches.”

Those are the reasons why “Deal or No Deal” changed Mandel on a personal level. He found being part of a show where he didn’t have to deliver scripted lines or write new comedy material made him comfortable because he got to finally be himself in front of an audience.

Mandel always thought he had to be funny to be accepted.

“I don’t know if it’s because of my age, but this show made me comfortable with just being a human and sharing the foibles and the weaknesses and the strengths and just being human,” Mandel says.

———

‘DEAL OR NO DEAL’

8 p.m./7 p.m. Central Wednesday, CNBC

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Howie Mandel makes 26 cases for return of ‘Deal or No Deal’