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America Says--Game Show Network.jpg

John Michael Higgins leads contestants through the bonus round on an episode of “America Says.” New episodes of the game show air at 7:30 p.m. weeknights on Game Show Network.

During the pandemic, when there were no sporting events to watch, my husband and I became completely addicted to Game Show Network’s ridiculously fun game show “America Says” and, according to host John Michael Higgins, we’re not alone in our addiction.

“We have people in their 80s who are addicted. We have people who are 5 who are addicted,” Higgins said. “I’ve never had a project like this that has such a wide appeal.”

If you’ve never watched “Says,” the premise is pretty simple. Two teams work to fill in the blanks of how America answered a group of survey questions. Think of it as a simpler and faster version of “Family Feud.”

Higgins said the simplicity is a big part of the success of the show, now in its fifth season. “It appeals to everyone in the same way,” he said. “They want to fill the blanks in. They see the first letter, and they have to fill them in. It just has to happen.”

While the game is certainly fun, a large part of the show’s appeal is Higgins himself, who is a complete natural as a game show host. But Higgins told me during our recent interview that he actually thought the show was making a mistake with him.

“I was really a character actor who had never played myself in my life,” Higgins said. “The whole point of being an actor is that you don’t have to play yourself. So, I thought, ‘Oh well, this isn’t really my gig. I don’t think I’d be any good at it.’ ”

Thankfully, Higgins’ wife convinced him that he was wrong and encouraged him to use his improv talent to make it work. “She said, ‘The reason you’re such a good improviser is you are a good listener. Just go out and do that,’ ” he said. “Whatever the contestants say, I take it in. It’s really very simple, rudimentary people skills.”

It helps that the loose construction of the show, including the large open set, gives Higgins a lot of room to improvise. “It’s a bit of a dinner party atmosphere,” Higgins said. “That’s what I’m trying to bring to it. That’s what interests me. That’s why I keep trying to do that. And on a good day, I succeed. I have a nice dinner party.”

“Says” is just one more line on Higgins’ incredibly extensive resume of TV, movies, commercials and much more. He credits his role in the movie “Yes Man” for giving him his success. “It often comes back to me, well, what if I did just say yes,” Higgins said. “So maybe it falls apart. But we won’t know anything if I don’t say yes. So, I think that’s something that I started doing in my career many years ago, and it’s really taken me to all kinds of interesting places that I may not have gone to if I had thought about it harder.”

New episodes of “America Says” air at 7:30 p.m. weekdays on Game Show Network. You can catch up on older episodes throughout the week.

Angela Henderson-Bentley writes about television for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact her at ahenderson-bentley@hotmail.com.

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