“College Bowl” is finally back on network television, hosted by a guy who has played in a lot of big bowl games: Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning. Although there’s plenty of college in Manning’s new NBC quiz show, there won’t be much football.
After Aaron Rodgers got his shot hosting ‘Jeopardy!” during his offseason, the retired Manning will get his turn to emcee an academic challenge featuring some of America’s top students. Teams from 12 major colleges of various sizes will compete to win big scholarship money in an ultimate test of their general knowledge, playing out over 10 summer episodes. Manning’s older brother Cooper is along for the ride as tongue-in-cheek sideline reporter for the Capital One-sponsored tournament. Peyton’s younger brother, Eli, joins Cooper as one of the reboot’s executive producers.
‘College Bowl’ has been presented in four different forms on TV, dating back to 1959. There hasn’t been a new version of the show since Dick Cavett hosted for the Disney Channel in 1988, or 10 years before Manning was drafted No. 1 overall by the Colts.
Here’s a breakdown of what to expect from the new “College Bowl” and why it should be must-see as part of this year’s June and July prime-time lineup on NBC:
What is ‘College Bowl’ and how is the game played?”
The new edition is a change-up from the original format, featuring teams of three members instead of four, including a captain. The colleges will face off against each other in a bracket-style tournament of matches over four rounds. Each match consists of toss-ups, bonuses and lightning rounds, or Manning-made two-minute drills.
The more questions the teams get correct, the more points they accumulate At the end, the top two teams will complete head-to-head for the championship.
How to watch ‘College Bowl’
The episodes will air Tuesday nights at 10 p.m. ET on NBC, starting with qualifiers on June 22. The new episodes will be available to stream on Peacock a day later. The tournament will be played out over a total of 10 shows.
Which universities are competing on ‘College Bowl’?
These are the schools the 12 teams will be representing in the battle for academic supremacy, including the two SEC alma maters of Peyton (Tennessee) and Cooper Manning (Ole Miss)
- Morehouse College
- Ole Miss
- Xavier University of Louisiana
Much like college football, rivalries will be a big part of the action. The first episode features Alabama vs. Auburn and Michigan vs. Minnesota.
What prizes will be awarded on ‘College Bowl’?
There will be $1 million in total scholarship money awarded to the competitors, with the winning team getting the biggest chunk in helping pay for their members’ college tuition. The spirit of the show follows Manning’s PeyBack Foundation, through which he has endowed 45 scholarships for deserving students.
Why are Peyton and Cooper Manning the ideal new hosts for “College Bowl”?
The new version of the show needed a big-name host and big-time personality. No, it’s not the fantasy of “Manning Night Football” becoming a reality, but showcasing the combined intelligence and humor of Peyton and Cooper in a non sports-centric show is smart for NBC. Peyton (ESPN) and Cooper (Fox Sports) have been a lot of fun in their respective oddball storytelling for separate networks. Peyton as leading man and presenter works well with Cooper replacing Eli as the goofy on-screen sidekick.
What is the history of “College Bowl”?
“College Bowl” started as a radio show to entertain soldiers during World War II before transitioning to television. The TV show was first sponsored by General Electric and first presented on CBS in 1959 by Allen Ludden, also known as the long-time host of “Password” and husband to comedic legend Betty White. “College Bowl” moved to NBC with a new host, Robert Earle, running from 1963-1970.
There was another radio version of “College Bowl” hosted by original “Jeopardy!” host Art Fleming, which ran from 1979 to 1982. Before the lone season of Cavett hosting on the Disney Channel starting in 1987, Pat Sajak of “Wheel of Fortune” had emcee duties for the last “College Bowl” airings on NBC, the semifinals and finals in 1984.
The new version is an homage to the past iterations. The University of Minnesota, a known past “College Bowl” powerhouse, is back in the 2021 tournament. Likewise, Morehouse College has been a standout force during the HBCU-focused run of BET’s “Honda Campus All-Star Challenge”, one of many “College Bowl” spinoffs over the years.
Why is ‘College Bowl’ back on TV now?
With the rise of newer academic college quiz competitions, “College Bowl” was no longer the premier championship challenge for many major schools starting in the 1990s. During the regional lead-up to the most recent television version on the Disney Channel, controversy hit the show with accusations of using old questions, causing the results of many regional matches to be protested.
The BBC version of “College Bowl,” called “University Challenge,” has been very popular twice, first from 1962 to 1987 and then again from 1994 to present day. It also served as the inspiration for the James McAvoy/Benedict Cumberbatch film “Starter for 10.” There were shorter-run versions of “University Challenge” made for Australia and New Zealand. In addition to the current run of “Honda Campus All-Star Challenge”, there also have been “Africa Challenge” and “Challenging Times,”, the latter ased in Ireland.
American television has had “Jeopardy!” dominate the quiz show space for more than three decades, with the late Alex Trebek and now with its current of guest celebrity hosts, including Rodgers. Shows such as “Who Wants to be Millionaire?”, “The Chase” and other general knowledge competitions have had their moments over recent years, including recent revivals. Now there’s room for something new (and old) with throwback game shows dominating summer programming across traditional networks.
“College Bowl” was overdue for a reboot with reality competitions that award massive money being bigger than ever on network TV. The timing to return with the Mannings is perfect with the chance to showcase and reward the brightest young minds in America. It also helps in 2021 to have diverse competitors and hosts who can bring the needed energy and comic relief.