EXCLUSIVE: Richard Bacon is used to reinventing himself. The British presenter was notoriously booted on the iconic BBC children’s show Blue Peter after being caught using cocaine, but survived the shame and became ubiquitous on British television and radio. By 2016, Bacon moved to America to host Nat Geo’s Explorer series and later Fox Syndicated talk show Top 30. But it’s his recent career turnaround that is perhaps the most notable: Bacon has gone from being in front of the camera to creating the content – and he already has an all-inclusive contract with Universal Television Alternative Studios and three series he’s featured for his Efforts can show.
The Brit attributes this change of direction to a personal trauma in 2018 when he was knocked down on a flight from the USA to the UK with suspected pneumonia and brought into a medically induced coma. He said at the time that he was “pretty close to death” and the experience sparked a rethink about his place in the television business. “I did a show at Fox during the day. It was a nice team of people, but it didn’t challenge me, ”he said of a Zoom call from his home in LA. “I spent a lot of time there dreaming about formats. That’s something I’ve wanted to do for a while. “
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Bacon’s first format, The Hustler, was released last month with Craig Ferguson and helped ABC’s game show lineup to triumph in the ratings on Thursday night. Produced by Undercover Boss Outfit Studio Lambert, the format features people competing for a cash prize by challenging a hustler – a candidate who knows all the answers to the questions. If the hustler hides his identity, he keeps the money.
Next, from Bacon’s brain, comes BBC One’s One Is My House, billed as an addicting guessing game where four people walk into a house and explain, “This is my house.” A jury of prominent judges must decide who is telling the truth and who is pretending to be the owner of the property. Strictly Come Dancing champion Stacey Dooley presents the six-part series, while the producer is BBC Studios-supported Expectation. Filming took place last year, some of it during the lockdown, meaning Bacon was often banished to the garage during filming. The production was “constant puzzle solving,” he adds.
Finally, Bacon resourcingstrategies unveils its third format: a show called I Literally Just Told You, which it is developing in collaboration with Expectation for the UK channel 4. “I was literally just telling you it was a short term memory game show and how bad it was. My starting point was that you can give participants the answer to any questions and still get them wrong. It turned out to be true. It’s an absurd, fast-paced game show, ”he explains.
A host and the length of the series have yet to be determined, but Bacon hopes to film the studio show this year (with an audience if the coronavirus allows it) after a non-broadcast pilot. resourcingstrategies hears NBC is piloting the format too, with Pitch Perfect star Adam DeVine and comedian Ron Funches. Bacon wouldn’t be drawn on the US version. “See what they say when you call them,” he laughed when asked about the NBC pilot. Channel 4 and NBC declined to comment.
The former Big Breakfast host says he can spend hundreds, if not thousands, of hours puzzling over the intricacies of a format before putting it into a shape he’s happy with. Once diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), it can manifest itself in compulsive behavior that isn’t entirely helpful when tinkering under the hood of an idea. “If I’m obsessed with an idea, it could be Christmas Day and I’ll go away and think about it for a long time, or wake up at 4 a.m. and write on the notes on my phone,” he explains.
His presentation skills have proven useful in both the pitching room and the development process. Reflecting on The Hustler, he says, “I’ve hosted this in my living room here in Los Angeles many times. The experience of being a host is fantastic for visualizing ideas. I tend to see them from the host’s perspective, but then in terms of implementing the ideas I will host them until they work. And then finally [former The Big Breakfast host] Johnny Vaughan once told me that being a host is basically like a salesman, which comes in handy when you hit the place. There is absolutely an overlap between my old career and this one in ways that I find very useful. “
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Bacon has not completely given up the idea of a new presentation and would like to return to music radio at some point. He hasn’t spoken to the BBC or any commercial broadcaster about the idea, but says he could make some calls in the coming weeks. “I will probably never be a full-time presenter again, but I especially miss the music radio. It’s hard to know how [I will do it]I live in Los Angeles for most of my life. It’s more of a thought in my head than a strategy, “he says, laughing,” They could be, “You are mad about America and you haven’t fallen into a coma [here in the UK], that’s not a great qualification for a radio show. ‘”
Right now, Bacon, re-signed by CAA and Hansen Jacobson, is focused on being a format machine. Next up, he’s putting out a few “big, ambitious, talent-led game shows”. He considers this to be the boldest ideas he has come up with but is cautious about the details. Given Bacon’s track record so far, you wouldn’t bet that it will take them anywhere. “It’s basically daydreaming for a living,” he smiles. “I’ve found my way into something I really like.”