Deal or No Deal (partially found pilots of Channel 4 game show; 2005)

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Deal or No Deal logo.

Status: Partially Found

Deal or No Deal was, in its first British run, a Channel 4 game show that was based on its Dutch and French counterparts. It ran from October 2005 to December 2016 and featured Noel Edmonds as host. Before the show's commissioning, Edmonds was among a shortlist of candidates for presenting duties. To evaluate their suitability, at least two pilots were filmed, one of which featured Brian Conley as host.


The original UK Deal or No Deal ran for eleven series.[1] Harnessing a luck of the draw format, a player is tasked to open a series of boxes that contain a monetary value.[2][3] The values within the boxes are completely unknown to the contestant and range from 1p to £250,000.[3][1][2] In the game's early stages, the player must hope to uncover low-value boxes (designated with a blue outline), as this shall give them greater bargaining power over the Banker.[1][2] The Banker, who wants the contestant to not leave with a large prize sum, will make offers to them once a set number of boxes are opened.[1][2] The player is free to decide whether to "Deal" or "No Deal"; if they select "No Deal", gameplay will continue as normal until the player either agrees to "Deal" or is left with two boxes.[2][1] They can then choose to "Swap" their box for the other box they left unopened throughout the game if they so wish.[2][1] If they "Deal" at some point, gameplay reverses, where ideally the player will choose boxes containing higher monetary values, or be left to ponder what might have been had they carried on.[1]

The show was conceptualised by Endemol UK Productions, which specialised in the pitching and production of programmes based on its parent company's successful international commodities.[4] For example, Endemol is credited for the UK adaptation of Big Brother, which was originally a Dutch programme that first aired in 1999.[5][4] Soon afterwards, Endemol set their eyes on another successful Dutch import: the game show Postcode Loterij Miljoenenjacht, particularly its final round utilised from 2002.[6][7] A typical episode of Miljoenenjacht ended with a player tasked to pick one of 26 identical boxes, before they select others to be opened at random.[6][7] A game ends when they have either agreed to a deal or are left to open the box they selected.[6] Beforehand, they and other players competed in quiz-centric rounds.[6] For international adaptations, Endemol largely did away with the quiz format and instead centred the game around opening boxes.[7] This resulted in successful spin-offs including in France, Italy and the United States.[8][9]

The Pilots

By October 2005, Deal or No Deal had received at least forty international adaptations.[10][7] A UK version naturally appeared lucrative, leading executive producer Glenn Hugill and series producer Richard Hague to pitch the programme to ITV.[7] ITV decided against a prime-time rendition of the show, but the concept did prove appealing to Channel 4.[7] In October 2005, Channel 4 was re-building its late-afternoon programming, which was impacted by the sudden death of Countdown presenter Richard Whiteley.[11][12][13] It had commissioned a new series of Countdown with Des Lynam, with the first episode planned to air on 31st October 2005.[12][13][11] To ensure the channel had a refreshed line-up that could obtain strong ratings, Channel 4 planned for a new game show to air swiftly following Countdown.[12][7][13] Its Daytime department, therefore, commissioned a few pilots of Deal or No Deal before making its final decision.[7][1][10]

Endemol partially based the UK adaptation around the French version called À prendre ou à laisser.[14][13][7][1][8] This adaptation featured 22 boxes instead of 26 and was generally considered light-hearted, with some boxes containing joke prizes like coat hangers.[7][13][8] However, executive producer Hugill and Hague agreed that a serious format, which emphasised the emotional journey each contestant experienced, would be more compelling for British viewers.[14][7][1] At least four individuals were considered as the show's presenter.[1][7] Radio 2 DJ and future Top Gear host Chris Evans was among the first to be approached, but he declined because he felt the show was low-brow entertainment.[15][1] Another candidate was Les Dennis, perhaps best known for presenting Family Fortunes.[16][7] He too declined the role, but later hosted the short-lived Endemol game show In The Grid, which aired a single series from 2006 to 2007 on Channel 5.[17][14][16]

Hugill and Hague's ideal host was Noel Edmonds.[14][7][12] Edmonds had enjoyed an illustrious television career spanning multiple decades, having been a Top Gear and Top of the Pops presenter, as well as heading Multi-Coloured Swap Shop and Noel's House Party.[18][10] However, Edmonds opted to leave the BBC in 2000, having grown tired of uncreative shows as well as wanting to prioritise business endeavours.[19][10] Edmonds' television career had been virtually inactive ever since; he claimed a return was only possible if he headed an intriguing show.[12][7][19] As Deal or No Deal was being conceptualised, Edmonds' agent John Miles sent a recording of À prendre ou à laisser to Edmonds and recommended he consider using the show to make a television comeback.[20][12] Upon watching the tape, Edmonds immediately declined, having felt it was a "frankly barmy production".[20][12][14] He simultaneously decided against becoming the next Countdown host.[20]

While immensely disappointed by Edmonds' decision, Endemol ploughed on with its production.[14][1][20] In an interview with Bother's Bar, Hugill claimed some pilots were recorded with "some brilliant people" as hosts, with the trial runs commencing at the Ministry of Sound studio in London.[14][7] Among the candidates included Brian Conley, a comedian and actor notable for sketch comedy shows like Brian Conley: This Way Up, as well as various television and West End productions.[21][7][1][14] Not much is known regarding Conley's pilot, but Hugill debunked speculation that it loyally followed the French format, stating that it conformed to his and Hague's original concept.[14] Ultimately, Channel 4 and Endemol decided that Conley was not suited for the serious game show format envisioned, with additional concerns raised regarding his numerical skills.[21][7][1] Having also passed on other candidates, the organisations pulled out all the stops to get Edmonds on board.[20][12][14] Edmonds recalled receiving frequent phone calls from Channel 4's Director of Television and Commissioning Editor of Daytime Television, Kevin Lygo and Adam MacDonald respectively.[20] Both urged him to reconsider, but it was a call from Endemol's Chief Executive Peter Bazalgette which eventually convinced Edmonds of the show's potential.[12][20][14]

Edmonds' pilot occurred in early October at the Ministry of Sound.[20][7] Beforehand, he worked with Miljoenenjacht creator Dick de Rijk on best practices, with an emphasis on making games entertaining once a player decides to deal.[20][7] The pilot featured a contestant called Jeff, who later appeared in an episode broadcast on 17th December 2005.[22][23][24] Analysis of available footage showed Jeff still had £75,000 and £35,000, with Edmonds assuring him that providing the £75,000 remained, he should expect a decent offer.[22] Jeff subsequently picked box 8 worth £1,000, which Edmonds claimed was "alright" based on what values still could be obtained.[22] One interesting minor detail is that the Banker (portrayed by Hugill) may well have been originally called the "Dealer".[13] Edmonds conducted further rehearsals; he found removing his presenting table and autocue gave him the freedom to build up drama and improvise when game-changing moments occurred.[20][1]

Edmonds and Endemol were thrilled with the pilot, finally resolving concerns over the show's presenter.[20][7][1][10][12] Hugill claimed Edmonds was the only individual to be offered the role.[14] Channel 4 initially tasked Endemol to produce 65 episodes, which would air daily after Countdown for 13 weeks.[25] Filming hastily began in early October at the Paintworks in Bristol, with some reports speculating Edmonds was struggling in his new role.[20][13][7] The first episode aired on 31st October 2005; by December, it was attracting at least 3 million viewers, considerably higher than what was expected for a late afternoon show.[25][1][20] Channel 4 subsequently commissioned another series worth of episodes, securing the show's future.[25] By the time it ended in December 2016, over 3,000 episodes were produced.[26][1]


Based on Hugill's comments and a Vice article on Deal or No Deal's conceptualisation, it is possible multiple pilots were filmed within a short period, with Dennis also having conducted a trial run before he declined the role.[7][14] At the very least, it is confirmed Edmonds and Conley had their pilots recorded.[27] However, no footage or photos from Conley's pilot have ever publicly resurfaced.[28] As for the Edmonds pilot, a 41-second recording from it was uploaded to YouTube, with speculation that it originated from a contestant who obtained a tape of it.[22][24] The original video has since been made private, but it subsequently resurfaced thanks to a Deal or No Deal Facebook group.[22] This remains the only publicly available footage from that pilot.[27]

See Also

External Links


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 1.16 1.17 1.18 UK Game Shows page on Deal or No Deal, also summarising the pilots and the show's other possible hosts. Retrieved 13th Dec '23
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Independent summarising a typical game of Deal or No Deal. Retrieved 13th Dec '23
  3. 3.0 3.1 Digital Spy detailing the behind-the-scenes of Deal or No Deal. Retrieved 13th Dec '23
  4. 4.0 4.1 UK Game Shows summarising Endemol UK Productions. Retrieved 13th Dec '23
  5. Yahoo! News summarising Endemol's production of Big Brother. Retrieved 13th Dec '23
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Bother's Bar summarising Postcode Loterij Miljoenenjacht. Retrieved 13th Dec '23
  7. 7.00 7.01 7.02 7.03 7.04 7.05 7.06 7.07 7.08 7.09 7.10 7.11 7.12 7.13 7.14 7.15 7.16 7.17 7.18 7.19 7.20 7.21 7.22 Vice detailing the story behind Deal or No Deal's conceptualisation. Retrieved 13th Dec '23
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Bother's Bar summarising the French and Italian versions of the show. Retrieved 13th Dec '23
  9. Reality TV World summarising the American adaptations of the show. Retrieved 13th Dec '23
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 10.4 BBC News reporting on Edmonds returning to television to host Deal or No Deal. Retrieved 13th Dec '23
  11. 11.0 11.1 BBC News reporting on Des Lynam replacing Richard Whiteley as Countdown host. Retrieved 13th Dec '23
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 12.4 12.5 12.6 12.7 12.8 12.9 The Guardian reporting on how Bazalgette convinced Edmonds to host the show, with its first episodes set to air after Countdown. Retrieved 13th Dec '23
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 13.4 13.5 13.6 Bother's Bar articles before and during the show's early run. Retrieved 13th Dec '23
  14. 14.00 14.01 14.02 14.03 14.04 14.05 14.06 14.07 14.08 14.09 14.10 14.11 14.12 Bother's Bar interview with Hugill, who detailed the story behind the pilots and the UK format. Retrieved 13th Dec '23
  15. Daily Mail reporting on Chris Evans' comments surrounding hosting Deal or No Deal. Retrieved 13th Dec '23
  16. 16.0 16.1 UK Game Shows page on Les Dennis. Retrieved 13th Dec '23
  17. Adam's Nostalgic Memories summarising In The Grid. Retrieved 13th Dec '23
  18. Archived British Film Institute Screenonline biography on Edmonds. Retrieved 13th Dec '23
  19. 19.0 19.1 BBC News noting Edmonds' focus on business following a temporary absence from television work. Retrieved 13th Dec '23
  20. 20.00 20.01 20.02 20.03 20.04 20.05 20.06 20.07 20.08 20.09 20.10 20.11 20.12 Deal or No Deal where Edmonds detailed how he became the show's presenter. Retrieved 13th Dec '23
  21. 21.0 21.1 Manchester Evening News summarising the career of Conley and how he nearly became Deal or No Deal's host. Retrieved 13th Dec '23
  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 22.3 22.4 Based on available footage from Edmonds' pilot. Retrieved 13th Dec '23
  23. Deal or No Deal Fansite summarising the 17th December 2005 episode featuring Jeff. Retrieved 13th Dec '23
  24. 24.0 24.1 Deal or No Deal Fansite discussing the partially found Edmonds pilot. Retrieved 13th Dec '23
  25. 25.0 25.1 25.2 The Guardian reporting on Deal or No Deal's early success and Channel 4 ordering another series. Retrieved 13th Dec '23
  26. Deal or No Deal Fansite noting over 3,000 episodes of the show were produced. Retrieved 13th Dec '23
  27. 27.0 27.1 Google Spreadsheet by officialopit, detailing the availability of every episode of Deal or No Deal. Retrieved 13th Dec '23
  28. Deal or No Deal Fansite discussing the unaired Conley pilot. Retrieved 13th Dec '23