The new Alec Baldwin-hosted Match Game is pretty funny when watched on TV. It’s even more fun and funnier when you attend a live taping.
On June 30, a week after Match Game premiered on ABC, EW attended a taping of the show in New York City. That episode, which airs Sunday, featured Leslie Jones (Ghostbusters, Saturday Night Live), Josh Charles (The Good Wife), Leah Remini (The King of Queens), Ike Barinholtz (The Mindy Project), Cheryl Hines (Son of Zorn), and Jack McBrayer (30 Rock) as its celebrity panel. And, it was so much fun! There’s something about being in the studio — some might say, the room where the magic happens — that made everything seem more exciting, that made the jokes funnier.
Here’s what we saw when the cameras were and weren’t rolling.
The alcohol doesn’t stop flowing
Each time the show paused for a commercial break, a man dressed in all black would walk on stage carrying a tray of drinks for the celebrity panelists (none for the contestants, because they have to win money, obviously). That sounds like a pretty fun gig if you’re a panelist … until you find out that some of them had been there since early in the morning because they film multiple episodes in a day.
“I’ve been here since 8:30 in the morning and I have been drinking since then,” Hines told EW at the end of the taping. “It’s like college days.”
Every game show needs Leslie Jones
Who knows how much of what we saw on set will be cut, but hopefully they don’t cut any of Jones’ antics. Everyone at this panel seemed to be enjoying themselves, but Jones was definitely having the most fun. She was all over the place. She became invested in helping the contestants win money. At one point, she literally (and jokingly) walked off because the contestant did not go with the obvious answer.
“I’m having a stroke,” she yelled at said contestant. “This is this woman’s life!” Jones yelled another time when she was disappointed by her fellow panelists. Her enthusiasm made you, the audience, care about the contestants winning. When they didn’t get any points, you were disappointed. When they did get points, you were ecstatic.
However the highlight of the taping was during the second part of the episode. This particular celebrity panel loved colluding with each other on their answers, and at one point Remini and Jones disagreed about what they should write down. So Remini took Jones’ face in her hands and made sure she got her way. “I’ve never been scared of a white girl before,” said Jones, which was quite possibly the funniest moment of the entire episode.
Alec Baldwin is actually a great host
In his review of Match Game, EW TV critic Jeff Jensen observed that Baldwin “made this show by embodying — performing— its outrageous spirit and creating space for everyone to play along.” That was even more true for the studio audience and for the celebrity panelists. He joked with the audience and had a recurring bit with a guy wearing a striped shirt. “Striped shirt, stop batting you eyes at me,” he joked. His dirtier-than-expected jokes allowed the panelists to have a lot more fun with their answers. One of Jones’ answers was particularly racy (and wouldn’t make it past the censors), but the show didn’t stop to re-tape it. It just kept rolling.
“I’m shocked at how racy it was,” said Hines. “What’s going to happen?”
The audience receives prizes, too
Taping what would ultimately become a 42-minute episode took about two hours, which is a long time to expect an audience sitting in a freezing studio to remain energetic and engaged. Thankfully, ABC had a comedian on hand to keep us all hyped. During the commercial breaks, he’d tell jokes, talk about himself (Fun fact: he was going to a Billy Joel concert that evening), and gave the audience to an opportunity to win prizes. Well, one prize: a $15 Starbucks gift card.
During the commercial breaks, surprisingly good music would fill the studio — from “Jump on It” to “Rock Your Body” — and when Beyoncé came on, he said he’d give away a Starbucks card if someone descended to the floor to “shake her Beyoncé.” A young woman obliged and won the card. A group of avowed Leslie Jones fans also received cards because of their enthusiasm. There was also plenty of Laffy Taffy, because why not?
The panelists actually had fun
“I loved it,” said Hines, who watched the original show growing up, at the end of the taping. “It was so much fun.” And that sentiment was definitely shared by the other panelists. As Jones and Josh Charles walked off the stage, they said to each other, “That was fun.” They’re right. It was.
Match Game, hosted by Alec Baldwin, airs Sundays at 10 p.m. ET on ABC.