The hunt for ‘The Hustler’ is back on as ABC contest returns

Season 2 again features Craig Ferguson as both host and player

Craig Ferguson

It’ll be a big summer for games, and some will be familiar to ABC viewers.

The network has gotten back into the primetime-contest business in a big way lately, and two such shows return with new seasons Thursday, June 17. “Holey Moley” offers a “3D in 2D” variation of the comedic mini-golf competition, with Rob Riggle and Joe Tessitore back as commentators. Then, Craig Ferguson continues as host of “The Hustler,” in which one of the five contestants already (and secretly) knows the answer to every question posed — leaving the others to suss out who that person is.

“It has that kind of ‘Knives Out’ vibe to it, which I think is kind of great,” the friendly Ferguson says of “The Hustler’s” distinctive parlor-game approach. “The fact that I get to play it, the audience gets to play it and the players get to play it is what I think is essential for a good game show. That’s why (Ferguson’s earlier series) ‘Celebrity Name Game’ worked.”

Precautions were taken in having the “Hustler” contestants seated so relatively close together in the age of the coronavirus pandemic. Those rules were new for Season 2, since Ferguson reports that with the first season, “We just finished shooting it before things went crazy, so we were lucky. This time, we were tested and worked in a bubble … and you’ll be glad to know that I was not in charge of that. That went to someone who knew what they were doing.”

Though Ferguson has been an extreme multitasker at various times, he’s glad that hosting “The Hustler” is one of the relatively few jobs he currently has.

“I don’t want anyone to think I’m complaining about working,” he notes, “but I’m not a young pup anymore, and I don’t want to work the way I did before, with stand-up comedy and touring and a game show all happening at the same time. I once realized I’d gone seven or eight weeks without a day off. Now, I have to enjoy what I’m doing, or you’re going to see it.”

Jay Bobbin

Jay Bobbin has decades of experience covering the television and movie businesses, winning Tribune Media Services’ Crown Jewel Award in 2008 for his performance in the company. Over those many years of interviewing and writing, he has spoken with everyone from Robert De Niro and John Travolta to Paul McCartney and Tony Bennett … from Meryl Streep and Julie Andrews to Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood.

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