Constable: Stay-at-home TV game show made in the suburbs
The suburban trio created and filmed their TV game show before anyone had heard of COVID-19, wore masks or stayed at home, but their timing couldn't be more serendipitous. "Jeff's Homemade Game Show" features comedian and Mount Prospect native Jeff Rogers hosting family members competing in wacky challenges for the chance to win money, prizes or a piece of junk from "Jeff's garage." All without leaving their homes.
Co-creators Bob Maraist, 57, of Grayslake, whose work on documentaries such as "American High" have earned him four Emmy Awards, and longtime collaborator Bob Kopach, 56, of Elmhurst, who conceived the idea for the show, say it couldn't be more relevant in an era when many families are stuck at home. And Rogers, 51, has been prepping for his game show duties since his childhood as the 10th of 11 children born to Robert and Margaret Rogers.
"My dad made a game out of everything, just to get the chores done," says Rogers, a 1986 graduate of St. Viator High School in Arlington Heights. "Who can clean their room first? Who can pick the most weeds?"
Their show, which premieres at 8 p.m. Tuesday on the BYUtv network and streams free on byutv.org. Rogers uses simple household items to improvise games, and urges viewers to try the challenges at home and send in ideas and videos of possible games.
"One of the characters on the show is their house," Maraist says.
The show interviewed dozens of families before filming 10 episodes with families in Naperville, Grayslake, Cary, Crystal Lake, Chicago and other suburbs.
In a game called Flip'N Flying Cereal, contestants use a spoon to launch cereal pieces into a bowl of milk.
"Ask your parents' permission, otherwise we call it 'Grounded for Three Days,'" Rogers says.
"The family forms a team to accomplish the goal," Kopach says. "We always talk about how families should play together. The message is always play together, have fun together."
A Naperville family that has a badminton set uses their rackets to launch balls of socks into a laundry basket. One game has adults and kids trying to build a 3-foot tower out of cans in their kitchen in under a minute.
"The first episode really tells a great story about a family that does a lot for their community," says Rogers, who makes a personal connection with family members. He enjoyed one young boy who was in charge of the bread in a relay race to make and deliver a sandwich. The grandma was yelling "C'mon! Go! Go!" But the boy played at his own pace.
"He was the coolest thing I've seen outside of a movie with The Rock," Roger says.
Families can win cash and -- if they pick the key that opens the prize van -- prizes worth $2,500. If they lose, they get a prize from Rogers' garage.
"I believe there was a broken lamp. There was a left shoe, an old left shoe, a potato smasher," says Rogers, who lives in Chicago. "There was a crystal Frisbee, an idea that was ahead of its time and pretty much still is."
Rogers honed his improv skills on the Second City stage, where he worked alongside Stephen Colbert, Steve Carell, Amy Sedaris and Tina Fey, and he was the second-youngest Main Stage hire ever, behind a John Belushi.
"Casting is the most important thing. Jeff truly enjoys people," Maraist says.
"When you are having fun with people, they are in on the joke," says Rogers, who never makes fun of the family members. "You want to play catch. You can't play catch if you're trying to bean them with the ball. It should be safe. It should be fun."
Win or lose, the families laugh.
"My concentration has always been in real people, getting to know families," says Maraist, who even embedded himself in one family's home for a documentary.
"You just did that embedding thing for the free rent," quips Rogers.
Rogers' dad, an envelope salesman, died April 21 at age 91 from complications due to COVID-19, but Rogers' mom and most of his siblings still live in the suburbs.
"On our social posts, we're guaranteed at least 11 Rogers," Kopach says, who says viewers can use #homegameshow and @JeffsHomemade to communicate on Twitter, and email ideas and videos to email@example.com. The show is produced by World View Productions, which was founded by Maraist, and runs for 26 minutes without commercials.
"We have something that will help relieve stress," Marist says. "If only for a moment."