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The doors reopen for 'Let's Make a Deal'

Wildly costumed contestants are back - as is their agony in deciding among Door No. 1, Door No. 2 and Door No. 3.

A classic game show gets an update as CBS restores "Let's Make a Deal" to weekday television starting Monday at 10 a.m. Original host Monty Hall is a consultant on the new hourlong version, but now putting the players through their paces is Wayne Brady, the "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" improv master who has gained game-hosting experience on Fox's "Don't Forget the Lyrics!"

"Let's Make a Deal" has a new setting that's much more lavish than the studio-lot stage of Hall's initial 1963-77 version: It's being taped at the Tropicana Las Vegas resort, which is convenient for Brady, since he performs a Vegas stage show at the Venetian several nights each week.

Otherwise, the "Deal" concept remains much the same. Aspiring players in wacky attire compete to grab the host's attention; if they do, then meet the resulting challenges, they're rewarded with prizes that can be cash.

Then they must decide whether to keep what they have or yield to temptation by trading it for something unseen, which can be a bigger prize or a "zonk" (or dud). The hour's winners then get to go for the day's Big Deal and that legendary choice of doors."Let's Make a Deal" also had revivals in each decade after the original show ended, and Hall says bringing it back now owes to "finding the right people. The last couple of times I brought it back, I had closed down my production company, and we brought in other companies, and it wasn't a good fit. We finally found the fit: Fremantle the company, Mike [Richards] the producer and Wayne the emcee. That's the package. It is ready."

Richards, who also oversees the long-running game show "The Price Is Right" for CBS and Fremantle, maintains that pitching "Let's Make a Deal" to replace the now-defunct serial "Guiding Light" was a no-brainer.

"You start with a near-perfect format," Richards says, "and we have Monty and his partner [the late producer Stefan Hatos] to thank for that . . . 4,700 immaculately produced shows. We've looked at building to where you have someone like Wayne, who has a lot of fun with the people and the customs, and expands it.

"We've added one more segment to the middle, a mid-game that will be fun and feel a little bit different than the rest of the deals. Basically, game-structurewise, [the original approach] is how we left it."


A good 'Deal,' zonks and all

And that's fine with Brady, who long has had affection for "Let's Make a Deal."

He says, "I, like a lot of people, grew up watching the show. I loved when people would choose, I loved the 'zonks,' and I loved the deals. To think I could be a part of that, and help drive it with my background in improv . . . everybody loves free money, so it just seemed like a great fit."

After he got the job, Brady sought feedback from "Whose Line" comrade Drew Carey, who similarly replaced a game-show icon by assuming "The Price Is Right" from Bob Barker.

"Drew and I, since we stopped dating, really don't talk to each other as much," Brady muses. "I had spoken to Drew when he first got his show, and he loved doing it. He was having a great time, and with me already doing 'Don't Forget the Lyrics!' I knew the excitement an audience can have during a game show."


A dose of medicine

So does Hall, 88, who admits one famous element of "Let's Make a Deal" was inspired by the traveling medicine shows of yesteryear. He explains, "The medicine show would go through a little town, and they'd [open] the side of the car, and someone would come out and sell packets of medicine. To get the attraction of the people, he would say, 'I'll give a silver dollar to anybody who has such-and-such.'

"A man who worked on those medicine shows created a radio show for me in Canada, and I brought [the idea] forth to 'Let's Make a Deal.' That turned out to be a very interesting part of the show; it was only two minutes at the end, but everybody talks about it. No matter where I go, somebody will stop me on the street and say, 'I'll give you $50 for a hairpin,' or 'I'll give you $50 for a hard-boiled egg.' "

While a Hall appearance on the new "Deal" hasn't been confirmed, producer Richards doesn't rule it out.

"We've talked about it," he allows. "He's already an important part of this, as a consultant to all of us in bringing back the games. The guy wrote the book, so he's going to be there. And I absolutely think that if there's a great reason to have the legend back on, and do some kind of passing of the microphone, it would be an opportunity we will definitely seize."

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