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October 15, 2018
Case Study: The Lyrics Board
By Kristin Brzoznowski
The music-infused game show The Lyrics Board originated in Ireland in 1993. The format was created by its owners Andy Ruane and Philip Kampff, who were working in entertainment at Irish pubcaster RTÉ.
“The Lyrics Board is the most successful and longest-running music game show in the world,” says Ruane, founder of Like It Love It Productions.
“The concept was simple,” he tells TV Formats Weekly. “Take a line from a well-known song and guess the song. In the pilot, a board was used to write the line of six words and each word was covered with a number sheet. To play the game, a team had to pick a number, thus reveling the word. To keep control of the board, the team had to sing any song with that word in it.”
Ruane continues, “In studio, six monitors were used to display the line behind the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6. This formed the backbone of the studio set and became known as ‘The Lyrics Board.’ Instead of sitting behind two panels like a panel show, the two teams were sat behind two baby grand pianos, completing the dueling piano triangle set with The Lyrics Board behind and the host in front. The team captains were then introduced into the format as piano-playing team captains who anchored every week and were joined by four celebrities—two at each piano completing each team of three. It generally takes about three reveals before the team can guess the song.”
The house band was introduced in the second season, and the ‘skip’ word was introduced in season three. If a team picks a skip word, they lose control of the board to the other team. “This introduced great jeopardy because you don’t know if it’s a skip word until after the number has been picked!” Ruane explains. “It prevents one team from dominating the round and keeps the game moving. We allow ten rounds per one-hour show and usually use about seven or eight.”
According to Ruane, what differentiates The Lyrics Board from other prime-time shows is the game itself. “We have a truly original game,” he says. “No game, no show. Talent, quiz and elimination shows tend to run out of steam quicker than game. An original game will play forever.” A testament to this: NRK in Norway has had 26 seasons running in prime time and SVT in Sweden is on season 24. Both are still going strong.
“Any format that can go for 25 seasons is format royalty,” says Ruane. “You can count those examples on one hand.”
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