Can David Tennant’s New TV Show Rival The Traitors?

The UK remake of Genius Game is coming for The Traitors’ crown.

David Tennant in a blue suit standing in the atmospheric studio set for ITV game show Genius Game
Photo: ITV

When the UK fell for The Traitors, it fell hard. Sneaking into the schedules just before Christmas 2022, series one was a word-of-mouth hit, and January 2024’s follow-up was a thumping ratings monster. Remade from a Dutch format, for anybody not familiar The Traitors involves a bunch of contestants completing prize-fund growing challenges in a castle while trying to ferret out the secret traitors among them. Claudia Winkleman wears tweed and fingerless gloves. It’s a whole big thing.

Attempts to replicate The Traitors’ success are everywhere. Last summer, Channel 4 hoped for viewers to get hooked on class privilege-based reality game Rise and Fall while the BBC brought back tropical island-based popularity contest Survivor. Neither budged the dial.

Now, ITV is taking its shot. Genius Game is licensed from the South Korean original (there’s also a Dutch remake) and involves contestants solving challenges while securing and betraying each other’s trust in order to win a cash prize pot. Like The Traitors, it’s been billed as a “social survival game show” in which players need to watch their backs and get into conflicts while also working as a team.

Doctor Who and Good Omens’ David Tennant will be the Claudia Winkleman for this one, playing the role of the mysterious “Creator” who sets the show’s challenges, explains the shock twists and narrates on the action all the way to the up-to-£50,000 prize pot. He’ll do it in a nice blue suit in a studio instead of in oversized knitwear in the Scottish highlands.

Ad – content continues below

How does this one work? The Korean original takes 13 contestants and eliminates one per episode to find the winner. Instead of living under one roof, Big Brother-style, the players simply gather at the set to film each instalment. In the hour-long episodes, the players compete in a “Main Match”, the winner of which is granted immunity plus the ability to confer immunity on a contestant of their choice. The Main Match loser is automatically entered into the “Death Match”, which they can choose to play against any contestant(s) who don’t have immunity.

The gameplay then, like The Traitors, will be all about alliances and trust. Cosy up to a potential winner and bask in their gift of immunity, or win a challenge yourself and scratch someone’s back with immunity in exchange for repayment down the line. As the official blurb has it: the challenges will “test contestants’ analytical reasoning, attention to detail, memory and loyalty as they must form alliances and decide who to trust and who to betray in order to survive.”

As they go, the South Korean competitors collect “Garnets”, which are transferred into a cash prize at the end of the game, as well as having a variety of other uses. The Main and Death Match challenges vary from week to week, but instead of physical tests, centre on feats of logic, deduction, strategy and, from what we can tell, quite a lot of playing cards.

Applications for entries closed in January 2024, so expect to see this one on ITV soon.