New ‘Brain Games’ Host Keegan-Michael Key on the Star Power of the Reboot

National Geographic/Eric McCandless

Can your brain guide you past the poker faces of four champion card players to figure out who ingested spicy wasabi? That’s just one of the mind-tastic challenges in the rebooted 2011-2016 science-based series Brain Games, now hosted by actor and comedian Keegan-Michael Key (above, with guest star Rebel Wilson).

“It’s a show about doing experiments in a really high-octane manner,” he says. Watch for:

Star Power

Ted Danson, Tiffany Haddish, Drew Brees and other A-listers appear as active participants — and competitive sides emerge. “I found out a lot about different celebrities’ personalities,” Key says with a laugh.

In “Male Brain vs. Female Brain,” one of two back-to-back premiere episodes, spouses Kristen Bell (The Good Place) and Dax Shepard (Bless This Mess) must arrange puzzle boards of numbers. Men tend to perform math challenges slightly better under pressure, so each has just 40 seconds to finish before a propane-filled balloon explodes. And yes, one does go boom!

(Credit: National Geographic/Eric McCandless)

Jaw-Dropping Moments

Frequent appearances by world-famous mentalist Lior Suchard wow the studio audience. In one segment, Anthony Anderson freaks when his teenage black-ish costar Marsai Martin displays similar mind-reading skills. “He didn’t understand how this little girl knew how to do this!” Key recalls. (Suchard fed her questions via an earpiece.)

2020 Preview: 'Genius: Aretha' Shows the Legendary Singer R-E-S-P-E-C-TSee Also

2020 Preview: 'Genius: Aretha' Shows the Legendary Singer R-E-S-P-E-C-T

'To really know her genius,' says executive producer Suzan-Lori Parks, 'is to know the difficulties of her life.'


Key is just as astounded as viewers in the results: “Sometimes [the producers] ask, ‘Do you want to know X, Y and Z?’ And I go, ‘Don’t tell me any of that!'”

Brain Games, Season Premiere, Monday, January 20, 8/7c, National Geographic