Snoop Dogg Plots TV Takeover

WHY THIS MATTERS:Snoop Dogg Presents The Joker’s Wild is another TV project from the hip hop star, who has become a prolific presence on television.

When the rapper snoop DOGG was growing up on the rough side of Long Beach, Calif., one special respite from the turmoil in his life was watching The Joker’s Wild with his grandmother.

Now he’s running the show. Today, the multihyphenate is honing his chops for his second season as host and executive producer of Snoop Dogg Presents The Joker’s Wild, airing on TBS April 15.

“I’ve watched new hosts breathe fresh air into these game shows,” he said, mentioning Steve Harvey on Family Feud, Michael Strahan on The $100,000 Pyramid and Drew Carey on The Price is Right. “I think to myself, ‘They’re good but they’re not me.’ That’s not disrespect. If I was to do it, I’d have a little more flair. But I’m gonna learn from them because I admire them for doing it. I see what their strengths are and instill them into me, make my thing super strong.”

TBS has major plans for The Joker’s Wild. After its 10-episode first season, which averaged 2.6 million viewers across TBS’s linear, VOD and digital platforms, the Turner network went with 20 episodes for season two. This season will have more celebrity guests, including Matthew McConaughey, Bill Nye and Aubrey Plaza. There will be a $50,000 jackpot, up from $25,000.

A new wrinkle for the show, which originated in the 1970s by game show host Jack Barry, will have Dogg trying to buy out contestants near the end of an episode, which may result in them going home with less cash.

“It’s about to be the best game show the world has seen in the past 20 years,” Dogg said. “Trust me.”

Whether that proves true, the show’s success hinges on Snoop Dogg’s personality, which has evolved over the years from an outspoken young man rapping about a life of police, guns and gangsters, to a charismatic performer with wide crossover appeal, winning over network executives and advertisers.

The rebooted show’s ratings reflect a truth in television that audiences are colorblind to true talent, even in a society that is struggling with on-screen images and issues of race and gender. And Dogg’s TV popularity suggests a post-racial persona for the star, 25 years after his debut album landed.

“I think [viewers] like me, that I’m me,” he said. “I’m not trying to do you or him or them. I’m doing me. Be unique to who you are. One thing about Snoop Dogg — you ain’t gonna see another one.”

Dogg’s fellow producers say he is extremely engaged in making Joker’s Wild the best it can be. “The entire experience of remaking Joker’s Wild has been completely driven by Snoop,” Holly Jacobs, executive VP, reality and syndication programming, Sony Pictures Television, said. “There is no part he’s not involved in.”

Rap Royalty’s TV Hat Trick

The Joker’s Wild is one element in Snoop’s television takeover. He’s had two seasons of Martha & Snoop’s Potluck Dinner Party on VH1, which he hosts with Martha Stewart, and there’s been one season of Coach Snoop, a Netflix docuseries about a youth football league he launched, designed to keep inner city boys away from crime. The likes of Steve Harvey, Michael Strahan and Ryan Seacrest are tied to multiple shows on the air, but there aren’t many working in television who star in, and executive produce, three simultaneous series.

“On paper, some folks might see a marijuana-loving former gang member from the streets of California who’s been arrested a few times,” Touré, acclaimed hip-hop journalist, former MSNBC host and host of the Touré Show podcast, said. “But Snoop is much more than that. He has a light, winning way about him that puts people at ease. He’s all about fun. And he’s super-cool. You know you’d have a great time hanging with him.

“So when you have a guy who’s cool and fun and has a winning persona and a household name as well as a body of work that earns him massive respect — he’s one of the great MCs of his era — then it’s not a surprise that he’s succeeding in TV.”

With Dogg as an executive producer, Martha & Snoop’s Potluck Dinner Party debuted in the fall of 2016 and shows the domestic diva and Dogg hosting get-togethers for celebrity guests. The first season, with 10 episodes, averaged 1.9 million viewers, and the second, with 20 episodes, has thus far averaged 1 million.

Much has been made of the unlikely pairing of Stewart and Snoop, but he said they clicked right away. (One memorable Martha & Snoop promo had the duo riffing on a scene in the Patrick Swayze/Demi Moore film Ghost, with a chocolate cake sitting on the pottery wheel as “Unchained Melody” played.)

“Some people are made for each other, you under stand me?” Dogg said. “It’s a matter of not having prejudged conceptions.”

Coach Snoop shows a different side of Dogg, playing a mentor’s role to the youths in Snoop Youth Football League. He said he’s been coaching youth football for 15 years, but only recently allowed cameras to share his gridiron exploits with the viewing public.

“People can see the real Snoop Dogg, away from rapping and being on stage,” he said. “They can see the Snoop Dogg who is concerned about his community, concerned about kids in urban communities who need mentorship, who need after-school programs to prevent them from shooting up schools, going to jail, committing crimes.”

Dogg, an executive producer on Coach Snoop, proudly noted that gang violence has dropped in every community where he offers youth football. “We meet the problem head-on, tell them where they’re wrong, where they’re right, what they should and shouldn’t be doing,” he said, “as opposed to letting them get away with things, and all of a sudden a school gets shot up.

“We seen signs and we never said anything?” Dogg continues. “F--- that! We saying something in the ’hood!”

Snoop is also looking to enter kids television with a project called Uncle Snoop’s Playhouse, which he’s creating with Seth Green’s production company. “Fat Albert, Mr. Rogers, Pee-wee’s Playhouse, Romper Room — picture all those balled into one,” he said. “Snoop as host, a bunch of kids, exciting, fun things happening. It’s going to be a show, pardon my French, that’s gonna f--- you up.”

He does not plan to take on more game shows, saying he’d rather make The Joker’s Wild as good as it can be. “I like to master things before I move on,” he said. “I mastered music and acting and movies and TV. Now I’m trying to master the game-show host thing.”

Those who have worked on shows alongside Dogg noted his work ethic. As one veteran producer put it, plenty of talent gets an executive producer credit, but Dogg wholeheartedly earns his.

“He’s a natural comedian who’s been at the forefront of pop culture for 25 years,” says Vin Rubino, executive producer of The Joker’s Wild. “I value Snoop’s absolutely perfect instincts.”

Michael Bloom, senior VP of unscripted at TBS, described Dogg as “a next-level entertainer” who commands a host’s podium the way a Rat Pack guy would rule a stage. “He’s an incredibly hard worker who is committed to learning his craft.”

Different Networks, Different Attributes

Snoop Dogg’s TV tastes include a lot of crime, including Investigation Discovery’s See No Evil, TLC’s Forensic Files and A&E’s The First 48. “I like all crime-based shows,” he said. “I wanted to be in criminal justice when I was in school because I loved crime so much. Then I got involved in crime and didn’t like criminal justice so much because it was quite injust.” In terms of scripted stuff, he singles out Starz drama Power, Netflix’s Narcos and BBC/Netflix crime drama Peaky Blinders. His three shows on the air have given Dogg a unique perspective on the TV networks he is partners with. He likes that Netflix essentially spans the globe, which he says matches up well with his vast fan base. “I’m international, not just local,” Dogg said. “Netflix offers the capability to be in their territories immediately, once you drop with them.”

He describes VH1 as “a music channel that’s trying to perfect TV,” where the typical show is an unscripted one showing the cast arguing and fighting. VH1, he said, has done a good job with Martha & Snoop’s Potluck Dinner Party, but he thinks “they could’ve done a great job.”

Dogg has high marks for TBS. “Exceptional,” he said. “Look at the press, look at the promotions, look at how they promoted my show during Major League Baseball last year,” he says. “I’m a sports guy, so to see my show being promoted in the [MLB postseason], March Madness and the NBA Playoffs — you cannot beat that.”

He said networks that want to work with him have to get used to sharing Snoop. “I’m not gonna be exclusive to nobody but me. How ’bout that?” he said. “When I give you me, you’re getting all of me. When I give somebody else me, they get all of me. Don’t worry about when I’m with somebody else. Worry about me when I’m with you.”

Dogg said there may be a bit of friction between network and star in getting the show right, which he describes as “conflict/clash.” So far, it has worked out fairly well.

“We get to the end result, which is a great television show that everybody loves and wants to see another season of,” Dogg said. “Everybody wants to see another season of Martha & Snoop and wants to see another season of Coach Snoop, and they definitely want to see another season of Joker’s Wild.”

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.