ABC's reboot of the classic game show Card Sharks returned for production of its sophomore season this past July amid an ongoing pandemic, becoming one of the first series alongside America's Got Talent on NBC and The Mandalorian on Disney+ to return for filming. Fronted by Community star and former E! host Joel McHale, the broadcast network series based on the 1978 game was shot with a minimal crew and no audience per restrictions put in place by producer Fremantle. Placing rigorous health and safety protocols while adhering to state and local requirements, McHale tells PopCulture.com that the shoot didn't go without its fair share of scares.
"I think we were one of the first shows — at least going — that had all the zones where people were not allowed in certain zones. Some of the producers, I never even saw them while we were shooting because they were in their zone. It turned out to be a false positive, or it was really more inconclusive than false positive — but at that time, it was enough to scare people," McHale shared in our series, PopCulture @ Home. "And so, that whole section was removed, and they dealt with that, and they brought in the next squad to take over, and there was probably a four-hour delay."
Despite minor setbacks, McHale praises his Card Sharks and Fremantle USA family for the measures taken to ensure everyone's well-being. "The protocol worked, and everyone was safe, and we tested every day, so it worked. It makes me happy because I want to work and get back to work and I want the entertainment business to keep going because without it, I will be destitute," he joked. "Now I'm signing on to do some shows and some movies, and they all have all the protocols in place. So, it's great."
One noticeable difference fans of the ABC game show will notice in Season 2 is the lack of an audience, something McHale says took some getting used to. "I was just very despondent and low energy and just like, 'All right, turn the card over. Oh, hey, you won. Goodbye. See you. Who's next?'" he teased before sharing a sharp "no," appending how they worked to make the experience fun for contestants and their families. "We allowed each player to have two or three of their family members — they're in their bubble and sometimes they made up for a whole audience, and it actually allowed me to talk directly to all of them."
McHale, who calls himself an "apex extrovert," goes on to admit how as a social body that values communication with others a great deal, circumstances didn't feel as peculiar as one might assume. "Talking to people gives me energy, so it wasn't as weird as you think. Maybe in the first few minutes, I was like, 'Oh, it's like we're on a desert island somewhere.' But I think it turned out really well, and I love that interaction, so I want all that stuff to keep going," he said, adding how the show gave away a "ton of money" to the point where ABC called asking, "'What's going on?' So, that was pretty funny."
The 48-year-old, who teases he has "no emotions left" or "a heart," which is really just a "little set of ball-bearings that spin around," adds how like the audience, he too gets really excited seeing the contestants react to the way they do during the game that features two players facing off in a head-to-head elimination game with one making it to the grand prize-winning deck.
"I begin to get excited when the money is getting big, and you'll see — they haven't shown it yet, but there are some huge winners, and there are some just crushing heartbreaks, and I think one guy was so close to big money, he had a king, and he said, 'Lower than a king.' It was an ace, and I felt so bad for him. So, I just gave him a million dollars," McHale joked sharply. "[But] when I see other hosts getting into it, I'm like, 'Well, that's kind of...' And then I'm like, 'I'm so into it. This is it. Get them to keep going!' It's such a simple game, but the stakes couldn't be higher."
As for why audiences today embrace revived game shows like Card Sharks among a long list, which include, To Tell the Truth, Match Game and The Gong Show, McHale says it boils down to how they just work "really well" for everyone: "They're very sound games, and if it's a good game, you can play it forever."
Card Sharks airs Sunday at 10 p.m. ET on ABC. For more on Joel McHale, Card Sharks and all your favorite stars and game shows, stay tuned for the latest on PopCulture.com! Follow us on Twitter for fresh, daily updates on all things entertainment, movies and TV.