EXCLUSIVE: Stephen Mulhern on ITV's reboot of Deal or No Deal and some secret celebrity specials

 Stephen Mulhern hosts Deal or No Deal.
Stephen Mulhern hosts Deal or No Deal.
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Deal or No Deal is widely considered to be the granddaddy of game shows.

First launching on Channel 4 in 2005, the ‘open-a-box’ tea-time favourite was fronted by Noel Edmonds for 11 series - and regularly watched by four million viewers - until it was axed in 2016. Now, after seven years away, Deal or No Deal 2023 lands on ITV with new host, Stephen Mulhern.

For those who need a reminder, here's how the game works.

A chosen player - from a weekly line-up of 22 - must open their fellow contestants’ numbered boxes to eliminate ‘low’ blue amounts that will help get them closer to ‘high’ red amounts - and to the jackpot of £100,000 - which could be in their own box.

Along the way, they’re bombarded with offers for that box from a mysterious entity known only as ‘The Banker’. The mood is tense as Stephen asks the immortal question: ‘Deal or No Deal?’

Here, in an exclusive interview, Stephen, 46, reveals to What To Watch how the classic game is back with a bang...

How excited are you to be hosting ITV’s reboot of Deal or No Deal?

"Honestly, this is the dream job. I loved the original series; I’d run home to watch it every day. Deal or No Deal is the perfect game show as it’s a simple format that delivers everything: jeopardy, happiness, sadness, excitement, intrigue and, overall, it’s a very heart-warming show. It ticks every box… literally!"

We understand that, when you got the job, you practised the game at home using cereal boxes…

"I actually moved on from cereal boxes to a real, red ‘Deal or No Deal’ box as I managed to steal one from the Channel 4 days. You can totally say I nicked it... because I did! When we were doing a run-through, I spotted it on a shelf in the production office and swiped it away. To get past security, I said: 'I've been told to take it home to practise with it!'"

Were you nervous about taking over the show from Noel Edmonds?

"Well, listen to this... I was doing one of my magic shows live on stage. As I finished a trick, all I could hear was this big voice shout: 'Hello'. In the distance, I can see what looked like Lord of the Rings character Gandalf walking towards the stage. I'm literally freaked out thinking: 'What is going on?' As he got closer, the voice said: 'Let me ask you a big question. Deal or No Deal?' He then pulled off his mask... It was Noel Edmonds!"

What a great story! Did he give you any advice for hosting the reboot?

"Not advice but he said to me: 'I had 10 glorious years on Deal or No Deal, I met my wife on the show and it changed my life. They've picked the best person for the job. You are one of our brightest stars, so you've got my seal of approval.'"

Noel Edmonds previously hosted Deal or No Deal
Noel Edmonds previously hosted Deal or No Deal

What was it like saying the words 'Deal or no Deal?' for the first time?

"I was thinking: 'Please don't mess this up!' As host, I'm there to be by a contestant’s side and guide them as much as I can, so they can break The Banker. I don’t know what amount is in their box and I can’t push anyone into a decision. They've all got to say: 'I'm ready for the question'..."

Do you know the identity of The Banker?

"That's the question everyone asks me! I don't recognise his voice and I don't want to meet him because I don't want to become his friend as I think that will change the way we talk to each other. The banker takes no prisoners - sometimes he'll just ring up with insults! He once said to me: 'Tell them if they want to get greedy. I'm gonna get nasty.'"

Stephen Mulhern talks to the banger on Deal or No Deal
Stephen Mulhern talks to the banger on Deal or No Deal

The same 22 contestants appear each week, which makes for some lovely camaraderie…

"These are all members of the public, who just want to have fun and try to win some money. All the players get to know each other, inside and out, for 16 hours a day. There's a caring side between these people who’ve just met and there are always those contestants we can all get behind. As a viewer, you get really involved in whether a player should 'Deal or no Deal'."

Noel used to call it ‘The Dream Factory’...

"It is! These people are trying to change their life even for just a small amount of time; they might dream of buying a car, taking the kids on holiday or renovating a house. We had one lady who won £22,000 and started crying. She reassured me they were tears of joy, then said, 'The biggest thing for me is that I won’t need to panic when I go to the supermarket about what I’m putting in the trolley.'"

Sounds like things get pretty emotional…

"I get emotional easily, especially if someone's already told me how much they need the money. We had one particularly emotional show in the series with a player who was seriously ill and said, 'I just want to win some money for my brothers and my mum.' I won't tell you what happened next but there wasn't a dry eye in the house - and I was an emotional wreck!"

How do you think you’d play the game for real? Do you have a lucky number? And what sum would tempt you to do a ‘Deal’ with The Banker?

"My lucky number is 35 but, as it’s between one and 22, I'd probably go for number eight. If I lost the £100,000 and the £75,000 amounts early on I'd be panicked. As for a game plan, I'd think: 'If I can walk out of here with £10,000, I'll be over the moon'. As well as 20 midweek episodes, there are two celebrity specials coming up airing on Saturday nights. Wouldn’t it be amazing if Noel came back for one more show, I was the player and we did it for charity. Watch this space!"

Deal or No Deal returns on weekdays at 4 pm on ITV1 from Monday, November 20.