LOS ANGELES, Oct. 18 (UPI) — Leslie Jones dreamed of hosting a new edition of the ’90s game show Supermarket Sweep. When she left Saturday Night Live after the 2018-2019 season, she sought the rights to the original game show that ran from 1990 to 2003. Jones executive produces the new ABC edition, which she hosts.
“My main goal was to update it,” Jones said on a recent Television Critics Association panel. “I also wanted to make people feel what I felt when I used to watch the old show.”
The set of Supermarket Sweep is a supermarket. Teams of contestants push a cart around the store, placing items from the shelves into their carts. The winner is the team that accumulates the highest value of groceries.
Updates to Supermarket Sweep include raising the grand prize to $ 100,000 from $ 5,000, some surprise new rules for longtime viewers, and new music. Jones did not want to mess with what she loved about Supermarket Sweep, though.
“To me, the game itself was perfect,” Jones said.
Jones took over for original host David Ruprecht. She explains the rules of the game and offers her spontaneous reactions to each team.
“Everybody loves to see me live tweet,” said Jones, who is known for live tweeting series like Game of Thrones and RuPaul’s Drag Race. “Everybody loves to see me have a raw reaction.”
Executive producer Alycia Rossiter said Jones was being modest. In addition to improvising with contestants, Jones also rewrites scenes for segments of Supermarket Sweep.
“Five minutes later, it would go from this rough draft to a funny, great, fresh take on what was formulaical,” Rossiter said. “It’s been a joy to watch it get shaped in that way.”
Jones said part of the excitement of Supermarket Sweep comes from strategizing what the most expensive groceries are. As host of the show, she said she saw many contestants’ plans fall apart once the sweep began.
“Before the sweep, they have all kinds of strategies,” Jones said. “They are talking to each other. They are coaching each other.”
The excitement of a timed run through the aisles distracts some contestants from the game, while others remain focused and efficient, Jones said.
“I’m telling you, one of the best parts of the show is watching everybody strategize,” Jones said. “Every team was absolutely different.”
Filming of the first season of ABC’s Supermarket Sweep occurred in July and August. It was one of the first productions ABC undertook following COVID-19 protocols, with frequent testing of contestants and crew members. Jones said the crew complied with the protocols, wearing masks and shields.
“This was a crew that wasn’t working,” Jones said. “We gave work to so many people, and all of them complied. Everybody was vigilant on doing the right thing.”
Unlike a public supermarket, the set of Supermarket Sweep was contained. Only the approved contestants touched surfaces and items on the shelves. Nevertheless, resetting the supermarket between sweeps added time to production.
“We cleaned that store like crazy in between every round,” Rossiter said.
The industry guild’s safety protocols also increased production time to 14 hours a day from 7 hours. The crew never complained and was “patient,” Jones said.
Jones said she hopes that viewers will enjoy Supermarket Sweep as a fantasy diversion from real life, where they must still wear masks and grocery stores must disinfect surfaces frequently.
“You’re supposed to have on your damn mask,” Jones said. “This is just a television show.”
Executive producer Rossiter hopes the show adequately pays homage to the real supermarket workers. Each show thanks a grocery worker who has been helping to keep stores open during the pandemic.
The show donated the unopened nonperishable groceries from each episode to L.A. Regional Food Bank, Food Finders, Food Cycle LA, The LA Mission and Downtown Women’s Shelter. The Rancho Wildlife Foundation accepted meat used on the show, and pet food and supplies went to The Rescue Train.
“The grocery workers in the States have kept us alive for the last six months,” Rossiter said. “They went to the store every day. We see our store as a place of celebration.”
Supermarket Sweep premieres Sunday at 8 p.m. on ABC.