TBS's 'Separation Anxiety' game show with Iliza Schlesinger has a twist

By RODNEY HO/ rho@ajc.com, originally filed Tuesday, March 8, 2016

It's been awhile since a new game show has captured viewers' imaginations. We've stuck to the tried and true: "Family Feud." "Wheel of Fortune." "The Price is Right." "Jeopardy."

Atlanta-based TBS is hoping to break through with "Separation Anxiety," which twists the "Newlywed Game" into a social contortion experiment.

A couple is brought in thinking they are going to play a dinky low-budget Internet game show with a top prize of $2,500. Not bad, eh? But one person is secretly sent to a big fancy TBS studio in Midtown resembling a high-end comedy club and told the prize is actually $250,000. But they are not allowed to tell their significant other (or a friend or family member) this fact. Comic Iliza Schlesinger hosts from the big room.

"This makes me more nervous," says one contestant Troy.

"That's the idea!" Iliza responds.

The person thinking they are playing for small stakes answers questions and is the only one who can decide to end the game. Iliza feeds co-host Adam Ray stupid things to do and say to give the contestant a clear idea this is low budget. When the contestant Erin waffles on an answer, Iliza tells Adam to get "angry." So he cajoles her into an answer. "It it the Bill of Rights for a [expletive] $100?" he yelps.

The other person with Iliza can pick the categories but do little else but sweat.

During a taping I saw last summer, the man who thinks he's in a small stakes game show calls his wife to help with a question. (Yes, it's a variation of the help line from "Who Wants To Be a Millionaire.") The director tells everyone to stay quiet when he reaches her. "If I'm wrong, I'm dead," she says.

"No suicide talk here," Iliza quips.

The questions at the taping seemed pretty easy until the final two questions, which the husband thinks is $1,000 and $2,500 but are actually $100,000 and $250,000.

Get a question wrong? The couples go home supposedly with nothing. (There are separate side bets that do allow them to win extra prizes and in reality, even couples who blow it get $5,000 just for getting mentally tortured.)

'It's really a unique kind of game show," Iliza said on set between show tapings last year at TBS Studios in Midtown. "It's a comedy show first, a game show second. We deal with people's anxieties and exploit them in a fun way."

"On top of the money," said Adam, "you get to see how vulnerable people can get in a playful way."


"Separation Anxiety," 10 p.m. Tuesdays (debuting March 8, 2016), TBS