Identity (game show)
|Created by||Tim Puntillo|
|Developed by||Reveille Productions|
|Presented by||Penn Jillette|
|Narrated by||Joe Cipriano|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||1|
|No. of episodes||12|
|Executive producer(s)||Ben Silverman
|Running time||60 minutes|
|Production company(s)||A Golder Productions
Valencia Productions Incorporated
NBC Universal Television Studio
Identity is a reality/game show, hosted by Academy Award winner and magician Penn Jillette of Penn & Teller and produced by Reveille where contestants could win a prize money of up to US$500,000 by matching 12 strangers one-by-one to phrases about their identities.
A contestant is introduced to 12 strangers, each standing on a numbered podium. After seeing the strangers, the contestant is presented with a list of 12 identities (facts including occupations, hobbies, ages, height/weight etc.), each of which applies to at least one of the 12 strangers. While an identity may match multiple strangers, there is only one way to assign the identities uniquely to each stranger. Based primarily on visual observation, the contestant chooses an identity and tries to match it with the correct stranger. In order to make a decision final, the contestant must "seal the identity" by pressing their palm down on a provided podium after saying which stranger they think matches that identity. Jillette, sometimes after finding out the stranger's first name, then asks the stranger "Is that your identity?" The stranger confirms or denies his or her identity. Confirmation is often made in a manner pertinent to the identity, either through a statement (e.g., a baseball umpire saying "Safe!"), or by demonstration (e.g., jumping rope). Jillette would often tease the stranger for going to a commercial break by saying either, "Isn't it a good time to take a break?" or "It's time to take a break." On one episode, Jillette would be too shy to say "Is that your identity?" and would cut to commercial.
For each correct match made, the contestant's potential winnings increased:
|Correct matches||Amount won|
After a contestant makes two correct matches, or makes a mistake, he or she is informed of the three "helps" available to him or her (although they are, in fact, available at any point in the game). One of those helps is simply a rule of the game:
- Mistaken Identity: A player receives one "free pass" if s/he incorrectly seals an identity at any point prior to the final decision between the two remaining strangers, i.e., before s/he has won $250,000. If a player wins $250,000 and reaches the final decision without using the Mistaken Identity "help," it is simply revoked.
- Once a contestant either incorrectly seals an identity or reaches the final decision, the contestant may "take the money and run" at any point before sealing another identity. If a contestant makes a second mistake or error when making the final decision (actually a pair of decisions, with each implying the other via process of elimination), the game is over and the contestant leaves with nothing.
The other two helps can be invoked by the contestant to aid in making a decision:
- Tri-dentity: The contestant chooses an identity and the number of strangers to choose from is narrowed down to three: the correct stranger and two incorrect strangers. The player must choose the correct stranger out of the three that matches the identity. Once the player has chosen to use their Tri-dentity, he or she must solve that identity (or stop and take his or her winnings, if Mistaken Identity was already used); they cannot choose a different identity. The Tri-dentity help is revoked, if not used, once only four strangers remain.
- Ask The Experts: The contestant chooses an identity and a panel of three experts gives their individual informed opinions on which stranger matches it. In the first week of shows, the panel included a body language expert (Mark Edgar Stephens), a psychologist (Dr. Deborah Anderson), and an FBI behavioural expert (Christopher Whitcomb), although private investigator Bill Stanton has substituted for Whitcomb in some episodes. The experts have no inside information about the strangers. They rely solely on professional training and personal experience to make educated guesses. The contestant is not bound to solve that identity once the Experts have given their opinions—nor is the contestant required to abide by those decisions—and may solve another identity or choose to go home. The experts do not have to reach a consensus. Each member of the panel may provide a different guess for a particular identity. This help is available at any point in the game.
In addition to the three explained helps, there are several other points of assistance offered to the contestant:
- During Identity's premiere week, Jillette would ask the contestant which stranger he or she wants to know more about. He will then ask that stranger their first name, and several pieces of information which are not directly related to any of the identities, such as whether they have any pets. When Identity debuted as a weekly series, this was formalized: at the beginning of the game, the contestant may ask for the first names, and a biographical fact, about three of the twelve strangers. After the third correct match, the contestant can ask about two of the remaining nine strangers, and after the sixth match, may ask about one of the remaining six.
- After the fourth correct match, Jillette introduces the contestant's friends and/or family members (in much the same way as Howie Mandel does on Deal or No Deal). The friends and family typically have a suggestion prepared as to the identity of one of the strangers after they are introduced. However, the friends or family members may sometimes lead a person to match an identity to the wrong stranger or take the money when they would have won the grand prize.
- The audience is not obligated to remain silent until an identity is sealed. The audience often voices their opinion on a selection. Occasionally when a contestant fails to recognize a celebrity of some sort and tries to select him or her for the wrong identity, the audience can dissuade the contestant with their reaction.
- Jillette himself, particularly on early identities, has shown apparent intention on warning, or hinting at the contestants when they are making a blatantly erroneous selection, though he also sometimes is prevented from doing so by a contestant's quick sealing of an identity.
Identities and strangers
The 11 strangers stand on individually numbered podiums and are referred to mainly by their number, though their first names are often revealed in the progress of the show, either by Jillette or the contestant asking.
Usually at least one identity is made blatantly obvious from physical appearance alone (blatant examples include a "Sumo wrestler" in fighting garb, and a "George W. Bush impersonator"). Celebrity strangers may be easily recognizable by the contestant or the contestant's friends (once they are allowed to help). There were no intentionally misleading costumes (e.g., a physicist dressed as a sumo wrestler when both "physicist" and "sumo wrestler" were possible identities), although strangers often break stereotypes (e.g., a female prison guard, a goateed, long-haired nuclear physicist wearing a leather jacket, or a preschool teacher dressed in a bikini). There was even a missionary wearing a bikini in one episode.
Strangers have confirmed their identities in a variety of ways; musicians, for example, have been handed instruments and asked to play if they can (similarly, opera singer Jennifer Wallace revealed her identity by holding a very high note). Some "skill" identities have been confirmed by demonstration; for example, a (male) go-go dancer danced on stage. Sometimes strangers perform from their podiums, while others are brought to the front of the main stage. Other strangers confirm their identities with a remark which pertains to their identity. An NFL player hesitated and then signaled "It's good" with his hands signaling a field goal, while a mall Santa laughed "ho ho ho". Most follow their comment up with "Yes, I am [the identity]" (though the audience reaction often masks this), and some strangers say only that.
In cases where the stranger is prepared to demonstrate his or her identity, but the contestant selects the wrong stranger for that identity, the mistaken stranger will be asked to try to demonstrate that identity, only to refuse at the last moment and confirm that he is not that identity. Strangers that were prepared to demonstrate their identity but were not given the opportunity (the player loses or quits the game) may be asked to demonstrate this when the full answers are revealed to the player.
- On the first episode, there were two contestants, private investigator Herb Irvine from Boston, Massachusetts, and Andrea Brown from Atlanta, Georgia. Irvine won US$75,000 after guessing seven of the twelve strangers correctly and choosing to quit the game; Brown won US$50,000 after guessing six strangers correctly and choosing to go home.
- On the second episode, Robert Talon of Chula Vista, California, became the first winner of the show's top prize of US$500,000 by guessing all 12 identities correctly. Talon, a loan officer, correctly identified, among others, a National Football League player (Ray Crockett), a reality television starlet (Brittny Gastineau), an immigrant from Russia, a blackjack dealer (named Pamela), and a belly dancer (named Ava), which was his final correct answer. The remaining unguessed identity was that of violinist. When the first season ended, Talon was the only winner of the top prize.
- In contrast, fire fighter Matthew Gatewood, the first contestant of the third episode, left without winning money after failing twice. He thought that No. 9 was a circus performer (she was actually a professional wrestler) and that No. 5 was a power lifter (he was really a U.S. Army Ranger) He was convinced that Erin Murphy (Tabitha from Bewitched) was an Army Ranger. He was followed by Nickie Malouf of Burbank, California, who won US$50,000 after guessing six identities correctly.
- The fourth episode of the run brought a US$250,000 win for Nicci Guzik of Streamwood, Illinois. She stopped just short of the grand prize because she had an uneasy feeling about her guess at the final identity. She thought that No. 11 was a crime scene investigator, but she was actually a kidney donor; No. 9 was the CSI. This final scenario is a prime example of how better strategic thinking might have helped a contestant: No. 9 was wearing a knee-length dress, whereas No. 11 was wearing a shirt and separate skirt. Had she thought about dramatic ways for the strangers to reveal their identities, Guzik might have realized that a person wearing separates, but not a person in a dress, could lift her shirt to reveal the scar from her donation surgery, such that producers might have planned such a "reveal" and advised the kidney donor to wear separates; therefore, all else being equal, the person wearing separates would be more likely to be the kidney donor.
- The fifth episode involved two games. In the first game, math educator Seth Cutler from Massapequa, New York, chose to walk away the prize money at US$50,000. He used his Mistaken Identity early in the game thinking that Caitlyn Jenner (then Bruce)[a] was a ventriloquist. The second game ended with management consultant Tami Jones of West Hills, California, losing the game and receiving no prize money. A total of US$975,000 was given out in the first season.
- When the series returned, Christina Howard of Sacramento, California, won the top prize of US$500,000 by correctly identifying stranger No. 11 as a prison guard (the remaining stranger, #6, was an astronomer). She became the second player to win the top prize, and managed to do so without using her Mistaken Identity help during the game.
- On the last episode, Christian Saulnier of Norwood, Massachusetts, won the top prize of US$500,000 by correctly identifying stranger No. 3 as a chimney sweep (the remaining stranger, #6, Apollo Robbins, was a pickpocket). He became the 3rd player to win the top prize. He used his Mistaken Identity help thinking that No. 6 was an air guitar champion when No. 1 is an air guitar champion.
The twelve people on the show whose identities are being guessed are known as strangers. The following are some famous strangers that have appeared: 
- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's son, Kareem, Jr.
- Jason Allen Alexander, former and first husband of Britney Spears
- Jonathan Antin, celebrity stylist
- Michelle Banzer, Miss Kentucky USA 2007; her identity was "speaks Vietnamese"
- Jim Barton, co-inventor of TiVo
- Tyler Baze, Horse Racing jockey
- Billy Blanks, creator of Tae-Bo
- Richard Brodie, the original author of Microsoft Word
- Lance Burton, magician
- Joey Chestnut, competitive eater
- Tara Conner, Miss USA 2006. (Her appearance on the show was taped prior to her announcement that she would go into drug rehabilitation)
- Ray Crockett, who played with the Denver Broncos in Super Bowls XXXII and XXXIII
- Phire Dawson, The Price Is Right model – Episode #1.3 Aired December 20, 2006
- Dayna Devon, co-anchor of Extra
- James "Buster" Douglas, first boxer to knock out Mike Tyson
- Eugene Edgerson, a Harlem Globetrotter
- Layla El, World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) wrestler – Episode #1.3 Aired December 20, 2006
- CariDee English, winner of America's Next Top Model
- Mike Escamilla, X-Games Gold Medalist, pro BMXer
- Kimberly Estrada, former Deal or No Deal caseholder and actress (identified as 35 years old)
- Bonnie Fuller, magazine editor of Star and Former editor in chief of Glamour Magazine
- Brittny Gastineau, who co-starred on the reality show The Gastineau Girls on E!
- Mikalah Gordon, American Idol finalist from season 4
- Cara Gorges, Miss Kansas USA 2007; her identity was "mortician's apprentice"
- Brian Gorman, a veteran MLB official who served as home plate umpire for one of the games of the 2004 World Series
- Maurice Greene (stranger #10), former holder of the 100-meter world record. He is also engaged to Deal or No Deal model Claudia Jordan. (Guzik correctly identified him as the world's fastest man, although she incorrectly named him as Marion Jones)
- Tony Hawk, professional skateboarder (identified as person who designed a roller coaster)
- Sara Payne Hayden, a World War II test pilot
- Perez Hilton, celebrity blogger
- Raye Hollitt, a former member of American Gladiators (where she was "Zap") and bodybuilding Champ
- Caitlyn Jenner,[a] Olympic gold medalist in the decathlon
- Mike Jones (jazz musician), a jazz pianist in Penn Jillette's Las Vegas show
- David Joyner, the original Barney
- Juicy Jay, Best Club DJ in LA 2005; his identity was "Superstar DJ"
- Jamie Kennedy, actor/comedian
- Abigail Kintanar, Red Oyster from Flavor of Love
- Jordan Knight, member of New Kids on the Block – Episode #1.3 Aired December 20, 2006
- Xavier Truesdell, model/dancer – Episode #1.3 Aired December 20, 2006
- Joanna Krupa, supermodel
- Tami Lane, an Academy Award winner (Best Makeup for The Chronicles of Narnia)
- Russ Leatherman, the voice of Mr. Moviefone
- Stan Lee, writer co-creator of Spider-Man, X-Men, The Incredible Hulk, and The Fantastic Four
- Matthew Lesko, infomercial millionaire
- Lil' Jon, a platinum recording artist
- Andrew "William Ocean" Litz, Air Guitar Champion
- Christopher Lowell, a home design guru
- Joe Maloof, NBA team co-owner of the Sacramento Kings
- Tyson Mao, a past world record holder for solving a Rubik's Cube
- Cindy Margolis, most downloaded woman on the internet
- Frank Marino, Female impersonator in Las Vegas; his identity was "had a nose job"
- Bridget Marquardt, Hugh Hefner's girlfriend
- Debbie Matenopoulos, former co-host of The View
- Jerry Mathers, Theodore "Beaver" Cleaver in the television show Leave it to Beaver
- Misty May-Treanor, professional beach volleyball player and Olympic athlete (identified as "born in 1977")
- Peter Mayhew, actor who played Chewbacca in Star Wars
- Michael McCary, one of the four members of the R&B group Boyz II Men
- Brent Mendenhall, a George W. Bush impersonator featured on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno
- Mike "The Miz" Mizanin, WWE wrestler
- Kara Monaco, 2006 Playmate of the Year – Episode #1.3 Aired December 20, 2006
- John Moschitta, Jr., the world's fastest talker
- Erin Murphy, who played Tabitha on the 1960s television sitcom Bewitched – Episode #1.3 Aired December 20, 2006
- Craig Newmark, the founder of Craigslist
- Eve Plumb of The Brady Bunch; her identity was "painter"
- Mary Lou Retton, Olympic gold medalist in gymnastics' all-around and the first woman to appear on a Wheaties box
- Apollo Robbins, deception specialist on Brain Games
- Franklin Ruehl, certified UFOlogist
- Amber Seyer, Miss Missouri USA 2007; her identity was "pig farmer"
- Frank Stallone, Sylvester Stallone's brother
- Suzanne Stonebarger, pro beach volleyball player
- Jessica Sutta, member of The Pussycat Dolls
- The Enigma, a heavily tattooed side-show actor with the identity "Eats bugs"
- Tila Tequila, over 1,000,000 MySpace friends
- Aaron Tippin, country musician – Episode #1.3 Aired December 20, 2006
- Phil Varone, a rock and roll drummer from Skid Row
- Steve Wilkos, Jerry Springer's former security guard on Jerry's show, and host of his own self-named talk show
- Trey Wright, 2004 National Scrabble Championship winner
During the first season, in addition to the regular game, like two other NBC game shows, Deal or No Deal and 1 vs. 100, there was an at-home game open to residents of the continental United States called "The Identity Challenge", where an at-home player chosen at random won $10,000 (US$) by choosing which of five strangers represents a product, or a profession related to the advertised product.
On the first two nights, three of the five were revealed to be incorrect throughout the game, and the answer was revealed before the final commercial break. On the next three, there was no such narrowing; all five strangers remained throughout the show.
To encourage viewers to watch television commercials during the show, the correct answer to the "Identity Challenge" question was revealed during a related commercial within the first 20 minutes of the show.
When the series returned on March 16, 2007, the show did not have an interactive feature.
Ratings and episode air dates
|Episode #||Air date||Rating||Share||18–49||Total Viewers|
|1||December 18, 2006||7.6||12||4.5||12.1|
|2||December 19, 2006||5.4||9||3.0||8.4|
|3||December 20, 2006||5.5||9||3.0||8.5|
|4||December 21, 2006||6.1||11||3.1||9.2|
|5||December 22, 2006||5.0||9||2.4||7.4|
|6||March 16, 2007||5.8||10||2.9||8.7|
|7||March 23, 2007||3.7||8||1.8||5.5|
|8||March 30, 2007||4.8||8||1.6||6.4|
|9||April 6, 2007||4.1||8||1.7||5.8|
|10||April 13, 2007||4.4||8||1.9||6.3|
|11||April 20, 2007||3.3||6||1.4||4.7|
|12||April 27, 2007||3.5||7||1.5||5.0|
|Chile||Identity||Vivi Kreutzberger||Mega||March 22, 2010||Cl$50.000.000|
|China||猜的就是你||Zhang Shaogang||Guangxi TV||January 2, 2013||Gift pack of family's dream|
|Denmark||Identity-hvem er hvem?||Thomas Mygind||Kanal 5||February 14, 2008||500,000kr|
|Finland||Tuntemattomat||Jaakko Saariluoma||MTV3||January 11, 2008 – June 12, 2009||€30,000|
|France||Identity||Jean-Luc Reichmann||TF1||February 14, 2009 – June 5, 2010||€150,000|
|Nika Kavtaradze||Imedi TV||May 13, 2010 – present||20,000ლ|
|Miltos Makrides||Star Channel||2007||€150,000|
|Hong Kong||亮相||Eric Kot||TVB||May 5, 2008||HK$200,000|
|Italy||Soliti ignoti – Identità nascoste
Soliti ignoti – Il ritorno
|Fabrizio Frizzi (2007-2012)
|Shlomo Baraba||Channel 10||June 13, 2007||₪500,000|
|Mexico||Identidad||Andrés Bustamante||Azteca 13||July 18, 2007||MX$250,000|
|Viktor Loginov||TNT||September 7, 2007 – 2013||1,000,000 руб.
|Singapore||Identity||Muhammad Syamim||Mediacorp Channel 5 (2007–2009)
Events TV Plus (2017–present)
|August 27, 2007 – December 26, 2009
October 19, 2017 – present
|South Korea||공통점을 찾아라||Suh Kyung-Suk||SBS||March 2008||50,000,000₩|
|Spain||Identity||Antonio Garrido||La 1||July 16, 2007 – 2008||€100,000|
|Thailand||ใครคือใคร Identity Thailand||Kathsepsawad Palakawong na Ayuthaya||Workpoint Creative TV||February 7, 2013 – February 13, 2016||฿100,000|
|Turkey||Kimsin Sen?||Mustafa Sandal||Star TV||February 14, 2010 – present||150.000 TL|
|Ukraine||Інтуїція (1-4 season)
Суперінтуїція (5 season)
Intuitsya / Superintuitsya
|Andriy Domanskyi (1-2 season)
Alexander Pedan (3-4 season)
Serhiy Prytula (5 season)
|United Kingdom||Identity||Donny Osmond||BBC Two||2007||£10,000|
- Australia – While Australia never made a local version of the program, Channel Ten played out all twelve episodes of the American series.
- Leibovitz, Annie (June 1, 2015). "Introducing Caitlyn Jenner". Vanity Fair. Retrieved June 1, 2015.
- Identity on IMDb
- Pound, Mike (February 2, 2012). "George Bush look-alike finds new career at restaurant". The Joplin Globe. Retrieved February 3, 2012.
- "IDENTITY "Play-at-Home Game" Official Rules". NBC. Retrieved December 21, 2006.