Craig Ferguson on "Celebrity Name Game." Credit: Michael Becker / FremantleMedia North America & Debmar-Mercury Find when "Celebrity Name Game" is airing at www.celebnamegame.com.
Credit: Michael Becker / FremantleMedia North America & Debmar-Mercury

When it was announced that Craig Ferguson would be leaving “The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson,” a great sadness swept over the many people who know the secret: He might be the best interviewer of the late night hosts. Sure, Fallon has viral videos, and Letterman gets a lot of spiky humor out of his semi-confrontational interviews (witness him mock-walking out on the late Joan Rivers earlier this summer), but Ferguson had a talent for making his celebrity guests talk to him like a friend.

Luckily, he’s back in action with a new game show, “Celebrity Name Game,” which teams up celebrities with ordinary contestants, who try and win cash by answering pop culture trivia questions.

 

The show, which premiered this week, has quite a few episodes ready to go, so Ferguson is gambling people will like it. “I’ve already made about, gosh, nearly a hundred of these things already, and it is beginning to, some people would say ‘fall apart,’ I would say, ‘get better,’” jokes Ferguson. Just how, exactly, is the show falling apart?

For one thing, not all the contestants know all the celebrities that make up the answers to the questions. One group had never heard of Anna Paquin, no matter how many times Ferguson repeated her name. “And then we had the same trouble in the next part with the next question, so the answer was Dennis Quaid, and I said, ‘All right, it rhymes with Mennis Wade,’ and someone pressed the buzzer and said, ‘Mennis Wade,’ as being the answer.”

Minor disasters aside, Ferguson says the new show will be a somewhat familiar look for him. “I felt that when we were most successful in the late-night show, it was lovingly trashing the conventions of it, and so what I wanted to do was find a game show that wasn’t so complicated that you couldn’t do that.”

Ferguson made the program with Courteney Cox and David Arquette, both of whom will be appearing on the show (Cox’s “Friends” co-star Lisa Kudrow will also be stopping by). Asked why he wanted to work with them, he jokes, “Well, you know they’re very powerful people. They can have you hurt if you say no. And also it was a good idea.”

Other guests include Sheryl Crow, Vivica Fox and “90210” hunk Luke Perry. While those hundred episodes may be ready to go, Ferguson thinks the show is still finding its identity. “It will eventually become, I think, a comedy show in which a game is played and money is won,” he says. “It feels like an improvised comedy show.”

Follow Lisa Weidenfeld on Twitter at @LisaWeidenfeld.