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Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard's Family Game Fight! Is a Goofy Delight

The new NBC game show is pure buffoonery, in the very best way.
  • Dax Shepard and Kristen Bell participate in a blind taste-test on NBC's Family Game Fight!. (Photo: Elizabeth Morris/NBC)
    Dax Shepard and Kristen Bell participate in a blind taste-test on NBC's Family Game Fight!. (Photo: Elizabeth Morris/NBC)

    The Olympics may be ending on Sunday, but NBC is bringing home the gold with Family Game Fight!, a new game show hosted by Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard that can only be described as completely bonkers.

    Inspired by the famous couple’s antics on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Family Game Fight! sees Bell and Shepard join opposing teams of families competing in a series of bizarre, never-before-seen-on-TV games. The family that amasses the most points advances to the final round, in which they must collaborate with both Bell and Shepard for a chance to win $100,000.

    Family Game Fight!’s contests are no joke: in one, “Brain Freeze,” contestants must correctly identify items on a list or their teammates will be doused with freezing-cold ice water; in “Pie Rollers” they must guess a secret word or they’ll be pied in the face. The extreme, shower-requiring nature of these games gives Family Game Fight! a bit of a retro vibe, as it hearkens back to the messy Nickelodeon game shows of the nineties and early aughts, like Double Dare and Slime Time Live.

    Family Game Fight!’s chaotic energy extends to its less sloppy games as well. In “Air Heads,” for example, four wig-wearing family members are given a secret word by the opposing team, and each must submit a clue to their team’s guesser. If anyone enters the same word, their wigs are blown off (hence the name “Air Heads”), and their clues are struck from the game. From there, the guesser must identify the secret word based on the remaining clues, and the team that correctly guesses the most words wins points towards their total score.

    The fact that it just took 82 words to explain a competition on a network game show would suggest that it’s probably a bit too complicated, but Family Game Fight! makes it work, largely thanks to Bell and Shepard’s “ready for anything” attitude and their quick wits. When things start to veer off the rails — and with this show, the track is tenuous to begin with — the two rein it back in with a quip or a weird personal anecdote, earning a raucous round of applause from the studio audience. Clearly the hosts-turned-competitors are trading on their reputation as a #relatable couple, but their game show congeniality rarely feels forced, even as the two are releasing buckets of ice down the other’s back.

    Bell and her teammates get hit with a "Brain Freeze" after a particularly dismal guess. (Photo: Elizabeth Morris/NBC)

    Believe it or not, Family Game Fight! marks the first time Bell and Shepard have collaborated on a television project. The two, who have been a couple since 2007 and have two daughters together, have shared the screen on various films, including Hit and Run and CHiPS (both written and directed by Shepard), but they've never paired up on the small screen (save for Shepard's memorable Good Place cameo), and their special brand of playful dragging fits Family Game Fight! to a T.

    Sunday night's debut gets the plum spot after the Olympics Closing Ceremony, but this wasn’t always the case. NBC had originally planned to air the premiere of Ultimate Slip ‘N Slide, another Nickelodeon-esque series inspired by Wham-O’s classic backyard water slide, but a giardia outbreak caused multiple cases of “explosive diarrhea” and shut down production. As a result, Ultimate Slip ‘N Slide will no longer air this summer, as NBC and Universal Television Alternative Studios have not yet secured a new production location.

    Given the overall sloppiness of Family Game Fight!, it’s fitting that the show has a massive diarrhea outbreak to thank for its post-Olympics spot. But it also may have been a fortuitous turn of events for NBC, as this latest in a series of recent "low stakes, high comedy" game shows seems likely to connect with battle-worn viewers for as long as Bell and Shepard can make time for more buffoonery.

    Family Game Fight! premieres Sunday, Aug. 8 at 10:30 PM ET immediately following the Closing Ceremony of the Summer Olympics. The series makes its time-period premiere with an all-new episode on Wednesday, Aug. 11 at 9:00 PM ET/PT.

    Claire Spellberg Lustig is the Senior Editor at Primetimer and a scholar of The View. Follow her on Twitter at @c_spellberg.

    TOPICS: Family Game Fight!, NBC, Dax Shepard, Kristen Bell