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Show of the week: Babushka

Babushka is a three-way gameshow format hailing from French broadcaster TF1 and Israeli and US prodcos Armoza Formats and Ryan Seacrest Productions.

TF1 came up with the idea of a gameshow using Russian, or matryoshka, dolls. Armoza, which has worked with TF1 on several shows, then worked up the concept before bringing in RSP as the US partner.

“Then we made an English-language pilot, which was filmed in Israel,” says Armoza founder Avi Armoza. “We did 90% of the full set and tested the mechanics of opening the Babushkas.”

The gameplay sees contestants open eight dolls. Some contain cash prizes of up to US$100,000 and others will cause the player to lose their winnings. Whatever happens, they open eight dolls. “Even if they lose on one turn they keep playing and can go on to accumulate prize money,” Armoza says.” It’s an emotional rollercoaster.”

Pitched as a one-hour show, two contestants can play per episode. Armoza says that the company has learned from previous formats that when new contestants come into a game audiences can use the opportunity to leave, and that limiting the number of players to two mitigates that potential problem.

“The combination of such an engaging and emotional game show and the fresh take of bringing contestants along for the whole ride struck us from the first moment and led us to choose it as the first format we have taken on as an international partnership,” says Eugene Young, president, Ryan Seacrest Productions.

In a similar vein to formats such as Deal or No Deal, luck plays a huge part in deciding who walks away with a prize, although there is a basic true/false question to answer on each turn in Babushka. “There is a simple general knowledge and strategy element with a money tree, but the key element is luck,” says Armoza. “We felt the element of actually opening the dolls really appeals to a family audience.”

Armoza is selling the format outside of France and the US and will launch it internationally at MIPTV.

The show: Babushka
The distributor: Armoza Formats
The producers: Armoza Formats, Ryan Seacrest Productions, TF1
The concept: Gameshow format in which contestants attempt to win cash prizes hidden in giant matryoshka dolls