The Version Interview... Giles Coren on itv's huge new gameshow, 500 Questions!

500 Questions is an intense battle of brainpower hosted by Giles Coren that will test even the smartest of contestants with a relentless stream of demanding questions.  Intellect, strategy and stamina are all essential in order to win. There’s no help, no hints, no multiple-choice and one very simple rule: never get three wrong in a row.

The Version disturbed Giles Coren's expensive family holiday in Greece to find out more...

500 questions is a very different kind of tv show for you, how did you come to be involved?

It’s because it is made by Wall to Wall, the same production company behind Back in Time for Dinner, which is where people will have seen me on tv most recently.  The format is owned by them so the Chairperson called me up and asked if I would be interested in auditioning for it.  I’m up for anything so I went along with it, I did a sort of run through in a boardroom in front of runners and production staff and bizarrely, they thought it worked!


You’re a new face for itv, do you think this is part of a conscious change for them?

Yes! Since itv had a big change at the top, they’re looking for new formats and new faces for sure. They definitely want to experiment with new talent.  They have basically ring-fenced the big five or six formats, such as X Factor, I’m A Celebrity, Takeaway and Britain’s Got Talent which are very much going to be long term formats at the heart of what they do but they want to build new shows around t hose.  I’m excited about it.


They’re calling 500 questions “the new Who Wants to Be A Millionaire?… are you not nervous?”

No, not at all. What have I got to lose? This is a big new opportunity, so if it works great and if it doesn’t, then fine.  It’s stripped across the whole week, so it is ambitious but it is an experiment and I think basically they just want to see the viewing figures go up during the week rather than down.   I think itv must be confident to put a brand new game show in a primetime slot every day for a week, and for me, it would just be brilliant to go mainstream.   The comparison is there for a few reasons, one of them being in America Millionaire used to be their biggest show and when it faded away, 500 Questions came along and filled the gap so itv are hoping it will do the same here.  

We’re used to see you mucking about on foodie shows and here you are suited and booted in a studio.  How did you find the experience?

I loved it! Honestly, a shiny suit and an audience… brilliant.  I’ve done studio based shows before, I did one with Gordon Ramsay and a film show for Channel 5 so I am comfortable with it, and above all it is just great fun. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not considering myself to be the new Ant and Dec but equally there are some entertainment presenters that are far worse, so I’m not worried!  Apart from the questions this is mostly unscripted and so it is brave for itv. Other than the questions on an autocue it’s mostly down to me, it is a very loose format, very American. 


Having done something so different, are you more open to fronting other kinds of shows now?

I’d do anything! Honestly, as long as it’s on tv and pays the bills, I really am open minded.  I would love to be part of the itv stable as they call it and I’d do gameshows, a chatshow, honestly I would try anything.


Even Strictly?

No… that’s different. I’d host anything, that’s what I mean. I’m not a “celebrity”.  I turned down I’m a Celebrity before. I had a girlfriend who worked on it so I went out there and saw how it was made.  They wanted me to do it but then I think they thoughtI was too close to it, having seen how it’s done etc so that never happened. It was about eight years ago. I’m not really interested in being on a reality show/


You’re good mates with Sue Perkins of course, why haven’t you done Celebrity Bake Off?

They haven’t asked!  I don’t think I would do it anyway, I wouldn’t be paid and it means time away from family so I am not sure I would be up for that.


Tell us more about 500 questions, are we going to be hooked?

I hope so, it’s big. I mean there’s big theme music, there is suspense… so that is probably where the Millionaire comparison comes from. But people might only win £25,000 or perhaps up to £100,000 so it isn’t about the prize money.  In this day and age people are watching boxsets and shows on demand and so this is itv experimenting with an “event” as in a show that people can watch with family or whoever and will get a buzz from watching something unfold each evening. 


Any plans for a celebrity version?

Yes, well maybe.  There hasn’t been anything confirmed, itv definitely want to see how this first week unfolds but if it is popular then maybe that would happen.  The thing is though, the format means that if you get three questions wrong in a row you’re out and you’ve got to have celebrities that are willing to take part and be seen getting things wrong. On Millionaire they only had to be seen getting one question wrong and so I think this is quite different!


Your sister Victoria fronts a quiz show for BBC Two, and I have visions of you guys playing quiz shows with family at Christmas. Am I right?

Yes! We did play Trivial Pursuit and quizzes, and we would watch University Challenge and things like that.  I am not the competitive kind though , I am a bit of an old fashioned g guy. I love a good quiz and I think 500 Questions will appeal to viewers who do also.


Lastly, apart from 500 Questions we’re also going to see you front a new Sky Arts show soon aren’t we? What’s that about?

It’s called Faked! It’s very different again. It is an art show for people who don’t necessarily that into art.   The public can get involved and try and spot a fake. IT is really interesting and now like being dragged around an art gallery.  The final is shooting this week actually and the show has worked out really well so fingers crossed there will be a second series filmed in Italy.  


Nice! Speaking of which, we'll let you get back to your holiday now!

Thank you!


500 Questions debuts tonight at 9pm on itv, and continues until Thursday.