Well, your resident Potterhead is back! The new game show on TBS called Hogwarts: Tournament of Houses has wrapped up a 4-episode first season, and you know I have to dive into it!
The series is here to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the release of the first movie of the franchise, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. (I’m sorry, did you say 20 years?) When I first saw the trailer for this, I was naturally SO PUMPED. Then I started thinking about it: "How has no one done this before?! This game show literally writes itself!"
SPOILERS AHEAD: If you would like to watch the show without knowing who wins, go to it now, then come back to finish reading!
Catch the first episode for free at TBS.com.
To really get into what I love about this series, let’s walk through the structure of the episodes. The magic for HP fans is in how they put everything together.
The premise of the show is that 3-person teams representing Hogwarts houses face off in each episode with Dame Helen Mirren being the magical host. The fact that Helen Mirren is the host is one of the best things about it precisely because she was not in the films. Here's what I mean: The show opens with her walking towards the camera with a briefcase, setting it down, and declaring, "Well, finally, I have arrived. Tonight, I take my rightful place in the world of Harry Potter." her tone has just the slightest hint of sarcasm. Just twist the knife in deeper, Dame Helen! This pettiness is on a level I strive for! She keeps it going through the episodes, making continuous jabs at the fact that she was not in the movies, and it makes it so fun.
Here's how the tournament was set up:
The studio is decked out in all things Harry Potter, including the podium Dame Helen is hosting from. There is a small studio audience that she proclaims are the "world's biggest Harry Potter fans," but I need to interrupt right there and say, of course, that since I am not in the audience, that is not possible. Moving on...
The studio audience is only fans rooting for the houses who are playing that night. So, for Episode 1, the audience was Gryffindors and Hufflepuffs. This in-person audience is significant because the show chooses the contestants from the audience. And how else would they do this but by sending an onslaught of envelopes cascading from a fireplace that Dame Helen must catch, of course! It’s a fun intro, but the best part is the child-like glee on Dame Helen’s face and giggles the entire time she is trying to catch 6 envelopes. Then, after reading out the names, beautiful show editing has the contestants step out of the fireplace as if they have traveled by Floo Powder. Naturally, the HP geek in me is LOVING THIS. I'm sold, wine poured and ready, let's get this game started!
After Dame Helen asks questions to get to know a couple of the contestants, we dive right into Round 1: The World of Harry Potter. Each team is shown a scene from one of the films. The first question based on that scene is worth 10 points, the second is 20 points, and the third is 30 points. The first question is based on observations of the scene, and the ones that follow challenge the players' knowledge about that film.
Here's where I found one thing that irked me about the show: in this part, when the teams get their question, they then deliberate and explain why they are coming to the conclusion they are. That's frustrating and slightly annoying from a watcher’s perspective that is also a fan, because, to me, you either know it or you don't. No deliberation is needed! However, I'm sure they were asked to make it seem a little more difficult for television's sake, and deliberations give it that impression.
After Round 1, we of course need the official scorekeeper to let us know the scores, and who better to do that than Luke Youngblood! Luke played Lee Jordan in the films, the Gryffindor student who was the announcer at Quidditch events. Luke appears out of a sliding panel in the wall and provides an update. When he first does this in Episode 1, Dame Helen proclaims she's seen him before but can’t figure out where, and is certain it's not because they have worked together. Keep it going, ma’am!
With the Round 1 scores read, it is time for Round 2, aptly named The Dueling Club. The questions go up to 10, 30, and 50 points. The teams also have to choose members on the opposing team to answer the questions, with the 50-point question being the hardest.
This is where strategy comes into play, which seems a little goofy at this stage. Each team must choose a person on the opposite team to answer each specific question based on their knowledge of the HP series. For example, the Hufflepuff team should choose the most knowledgeable Gryffindor team member to get the easiest question (worth 10 points), saving the hardest question (worth 50) to the least knowledgeable person, who's most likely to get it wrong. Because the players have seemingly known each other for all of 10 minutes, this becomes tricky. The houses (audience) also play along and help add to the total score at the end. For the 50 point difficult question, they bring in former actors or huge fans of the series, such as Matthew Lewis, (Neville Longbottom), Simon Fisher-Becker (the Fat Friar), and Pete Davidson (Saturday Night Live cast member and a huge fan of the series).
Round 3 is the Department of Magical Games in which there are several magical charms shown on the portrait wall, each representing a different style of question. The houses take turns choosing the style they want to play, with each question being worth 50 points. However, if the first house that attempts a question answers it incorrectly, the other house can steal it with a correct answer for 30 points. Each Round 3 question is inspired by a theme, and for Episode 1 that theme is Places.
Each team picks a charm and answers their question accordingly. For example, in Episode 1, Hufflepuff chooses Revelio, where they must uncover what happens next in a scene shown on the portrait wall. Gryffindor chooses Accio, where the show has summoned an actual prop from the films: they have to choose between 3 couches and determine which one was the actual couch in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 that Hermione's parents are sitting on when Hermione wipes their memory for their safety. *crying softly in the corner*
What I enjoy about Round 3 is the vast jump in the difficulty of questions compared to the other 2 rounds. Initially, with Round 1, the questions seem childishly easy. Then we get to questions where you can’t see anything, you only hear a noise from a scene in a film, and you have to identify what it is. Now this is the difficulty level where I am challenged!
The show ends with Round 4, called The Golden Snitch. In this round, teams answer 6 increasingly difficult questions at the same time, and the house members in the audience participate as well. Each question is worth 50 points, but if the houses answer all 6 questions correctly, they double the 300 points to 600!
After the Round 4 questions and answers, we get the final tally from Lee, er, Luke. In Episode 1, Hufflepuff beats Gryffindor (boo!), and in episode 2, Ravenclaw beats Slytherin (what!).
Dame Helen promised that both Gryffindor and Slytherin will have a chance at redemption before the tournament is over, and they did! Episode 3 was a showdown for the ages, and Slytherin beat Gryffindor to secure a spot in the final.
This is the basic format for all of the episodes until we get to Episode 4. Starting that final episode, there are 3 teams, the winners of the first three episodes. To whittle it down to 2, each of the 3 players from the same team must answer their own, individual questions while also being the fastest to press the button to answer against the others. This was a sly way of eliminating players. Ravenclaw jumped to an early lead with 2 players already answering correctly, leaving 1 player on their team who ended up getting answers wrong. That cost Ravenclaw, allowing Hufflepuff to secure their spot in the final! In the most unexpected twist of them all (that’s the Gryffindor in me), Hufflepuff went on to win it all, beating Slytherin!
Speaking of the final, the prizes! The winning team received a Harry Potter trip of a lifetime! It includes visits to the new New York City store, Harry Potter: The Exhibition, tickets to Universal Orlando's Wizarding World of Harry Potter, tickets to The Cursed Child, and an advanced screening of The Secrets of Dumbledore. They also get to hoist a trophy reminiscent of the Goblet of Fire!
While the series does seem a little campy and child-like at first, its beauty is that it appeals to both adults and children and is aimed at being family-friendly. The fact that Harry Potter is still this relevant to this day makes my inner child scream with joy! (But not audibly, I would get stared at a lot.) I am so excited to see more of this series if they decide to make more seasons!
Have you watched any of the episodes? What are your thoughts? Are you challenged by the questions? Let me know below!