By Lesley Goldberg, Kate Stanhope - March 31, 2017
NBC is once again looking to the underage set for its next unscripted hit.
Coming off the continued success of Little Big Shots, the network has greenlit a new game show testing the smarts of the most brilliant children in the country, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.
Genius Junior will group children 12 and under into 12 teams of three. Each of the five rounds will be tougher than the last and will test spelling, mathematics and memory among many other subjects. The winning team will take home the Genius Junior Grant. The first season will run 10 episodes.
Neil Patrick Harris, who became a household name for playing child prodigy Doogie Howser, will host and exec produce the game show.
“I’m thrilled to be part of a project that shines a light on extraordinary children and challenges viewers to exercise their own minds,” Harris said. “NBC is a great home for Genius Junior. Plus, the contestants are kids, so they're destined to be hilarious or, you know, snap. Win/win. I kid. #pun."
The Emmy winner will exec produce with Pam Healey, John Hesling, Phil Parsons and Ed Egan. Genius Junior hails from Shed Media, a division of Warner Bros. unscripted and alternative department.
“Watching these amazing genius children solve problems that most adults would find impossible is absolutely riveting,” said Warner Bros. unscripted and alternative television head Mike Darnell. “Add in the super smart and multi-talented Neil Patrick Harris...and it's a no-brainer that this show is going to work.”
This marks the latest unscripted collaboration between Warner Bros. TV and NBC, also counting Little Big Shots, spinoff Little Big Shots: Forever Young, The Voice, and Ellen DeGeneres' upcoming dating show First Dates.
"Tackling incredibly tough and fast-paced challenges, these amazing child prodigies will leave us entertained and awestruck," said NBC reality chief Paul Telegdy. "We are thrilled to have Neil as our host. Hisquick wit and charm are perfectly suited to keep up with the unpredictability that is sure to ensue."
Genius Junior marks NBC's latest foray back into the game show genre, following the success of The Wall and Hollywood Game Night. Before that, there was the short-lived Million Second Quiz and Minute to Win It, which ran two seasons on NBC before moving to Game Show Network.
Genius Junior is the latest in a long line of children-centered reality shows. In addition to Little Big Shots, Fox has also found success with MasterChef Junior, which now outperforms the flagship. (A similar young edition of So You Think You Can Dance fared less well.) Nickelodeon recently picked up the spinoff Lip Sync Battle Shorties to series. Lifetime also has a Project Runway Jr. offshoot.
Genius Junior bares striking similarity to the scrapped Fox game show Our Little Genius, which was ordered to series in 2009 when Darnell was the head of the network's alternative department. However, the show was pulled one week before its 2010 premiere and indefinitely shelved when exec producer Mark Burnett voiced concerns about the show's integrity. An F.C.C. investigation into the show was subsequently launched and it never aired. However, unlike Genius Junior, child prodigies competed individually to win money for their families.
NBC's reality slate also includes America's Got Talent, American Ninja Warrior, Better Late Than Never, Running Wild With Bear Grylls, Spartan: Ultimate Team Challenge and Celebrity Apprentice, the latter of which seems unlikely to return to NBC's schedule anytime in the near future.
Harris most recently served as host and exec producer of the NBC variety show Best Time Ever, which was canceled after one season. He currently toplines Netflix's A Series of Unfortunate Events, which was recently renewed for season two.