SPOILER ALERT: This interview contains spoilers from the Season 7 finale of “Jet Lag: The Game” now streaming on Nebula and YouTube.
The Season 7 finale of “Jet Lag: The Game” launched on YouTube Wednesday, giving all non-Nebula subscribers access to the Streamy-nominated online travel game show, and the big reveal of its latest winner.
In an interview with Variety, “Jet Lag” stars Sam Denby, Ben Doyle (the victor of the “tag across Europe”-formatted Season 7) and Adam Chase broke down the making of their series, which is produced by Denby’s Wendover Productions and airs new episodes first on creator-community-focused indie streamer Nebula. Denby, who was named chief content officer of Nebula in August, and his team also discuss why they have yet to do a project like “Jet Lag” at a larger streamer.
How far in advance are you planning new seasons — is there a big chart somewhere plotting out years of “Jet Lag: The Game”?
Denby: We totally would have a big chart if we all worked in the same place, I think we would have a crazy maniacal wall. But we work remotely. What we didn’t realize at the start is how weather-dependent we actually are when we shoot, more than anything in terms of daylight hours. We like to have long days, and it kind of just looks lame to film at night. So we like to film as much as possible in summer, which is why last winter we went south of the equator to southern hemisphere summer in New Zealand.
Chase: Season 8, we already have the concept, we already have the guest and we’re going to film that in a few weeks. We’re very excited about both the concept and the guest and then we are already loosely discussing location and early thoughts about game design for Season 9.
How does designing a new season of “Jet Lag” now differ from earlier seasons?
Doyle: One of the biggest hurdles when we first started designing these games was that we all had very different ideas of what challenges would be interesting, what challenges would be strategically compelling, and what challenges would be like acceptable. And I think that there was a lot more back and forth between like us and Sam about, is this going to work, or is this going to work? Now it’s a much quicker process.
Chase: We just have a much better sense of what challenges lead to good moments on the show, because we’ve done a lot of challenges now. I’m really proud of our slate of challenges that were in this season of tag, and I think a big reason why we were able to make good challenges this season is we had done tag before and we had seen what challenges were good in tag and which ones weren’t.
Adam, your most recent attempt at a disguise failed to trick Ben and Sam in Season 7. Do you intend on continuing to try disguises in future seasons or have you given up?
Chase: Look, I think that whether or not a disguise works is really based on circumstance. I think that, in this season, I ended up in a situation where I was in a small town in a disguise, they have a tracker on me, they know where I am, they’re probably going to find me. And I realized at a certain point when I was in these small, not-that-crowded towns, that that disguise was probably not going to do anything. But God forbid I took it off again. I get messages multiple times a month, still, about a year ago taking off my disguise and getting caught. So I was like, I’m keeping it on. I’m going to be honest with you, I have ideas about disguises in the future and I am not going to say what they are, in part for suspense of the audience, but in part because I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but Ben and Sam are on this call right there. And I am not that I’m not interested in giving away too much future strategy to them.
Denby: I think he’s going to wear a full-body suit Stormtrooper outfit.
Chase: One thing Ben brought up one time was like, if you were to wear a full head-to-toe spandex Spider-Man costume, we would be almost positive it was you — but we couldn’t necessarily confirm it and we have to make physical contact with you to tag you. So it might scare us, what if we’re attacking a stranger? And I think that that was an interesting strat.
Sam, you’ve tried hard to make the “Choo Choo Chew” snack show segment catch on since it was introduced by your “Jet Lag” Season 6 partner Scotty Allen. Did you continue to try to make it happen in Season 7 because you feel left out of the “Jet Lag’s” predominant snack show segment, “Snack Zone”?
Denby: Scotty my partner came up with the name, and I just really wanted to be supportive because I thought it was an amazing name. I’m just trying to be supportive of the guests that we bring on. I think there’s room in this world for two in-game snack shows. And it’s a shame that some people think there’s only room for one.
Chase: There is truly quite a lot of footage of Sam attempting to make a show called ‘Choo Choo Chew: Derailed’ this season. And you may notice, it does not see the light of day a single time.
Denby: I cede first pass on the edit power, and this is the result. I can’t properly exert my influence.
Chase: It was incredible, we had a meeting with some of our post production team and they were like, Sam mentioned at one point a snack show called ‘Choo Choo Chew: Derailed,’ do we need to make a new intro sequence for that? And I was like, no, no you do not, that will not be necessary, we will not be featuring it. You’ll see a few times in the season, Sam will say something’s going to be ‘Choo Choo Chew: Derailed,’ and we see the ‘Snack Zone’ theme play instead, which I really enjoyed.
Ben, there seemed to be more challenges in earlier seasons that specifically involved getting you drunk. Why have there been less of those recently; did you decide to phase them out?
Doyle: Look, the possibility exists in nearly every season we do for me to get drunk. Sometimes it simply doesn’t come up, because the cards are real, the show is real. And I, to this day, try to the best of my ability to refrain from drinking when off the clock, when not at work, so as to keep my tolerance plenty low. I’m a professional athlete and my body is a temple. I’m maintaining the physical condition that I need to be in to do my job, which is to get very, very, very drunk and have Adam take care of me.
Chase: I will also add that, in seasons where Ben would be on his own when he does a challenge, we don’t have the possibility of getting drunk. So like in tag, there is not a card that says get drunk because we don’t think it would necessarily be safe for somebody on their own to get drunk and then be getting on trains and such. We make sure that the only times where there’s a possibility that Ben will get drunk is a season where a partner like I would be with him to take care of him and make sure that nothing bad happens.
Is there anywhere you have totally ruled out doing a season of “Jet Lag,” either transportation wise or logistics of being able to film?
Denby: Quite a few, actually. If anything, the majority of the world is sort of ruled out, which is a bit unfortunate. We have done seasons just using vehicles, but our conclusion coming away from that is that we pretty much optimized that as much as we could, and it still didn’t really get as much of strategically exciting game as we had hoped so. So we really rely on places that have strong frequent reliable, or semi reliable, public transportation, considering that we go into Germany.
Chase: Massive Deutschland attack!
Denby: But what that means is like there’s really quite a few places that we can’t go just because they don’t have that sort of public transportation. And we also rely on going to places where we can run around without having to worry too much about safety or whether we’re gonna be able to reliably get a hotel where we ended up at the end of the day. So unfortunately, that does exclude a lot of really interesting geographies. I think we’re certainly thinking about how we might be able to include some more off-the-beaten track destinations in the future, but it probably requires games that are a bit more on rails. So it’s a bit of a trade off.
Have you considered working with larger streamers on either “Jet Lag” or future Wendover Productions projects, or are you intent on sticking with Nebula?
Denby: We have actually, more and more, dabbled with doing stuff for other streamers and gotten far closer to doing that. We went through a long process of developing a format/pitch with an executive producer that we partnered with. And where it basically ended was we realized that it wasn’t really more attractive to us than the work that we do now. Certainly, there’s a certain prestige with doing something for Netflix, for example, but with the way the budgets work out with the kind of show that we could reasonably sell, we wouldn’t really make more money and we’d be forced to do something that is a little bit creatively uninteresting to us. We’re not the biggest deal in the world, we’d be we’d be coming in and we’d have to earn our keep at a big streamer in order to get to the more creatively interesting stuff. I think the really freeing thing about Nebula and the creator production ecosystem that we work within is we don’t have limits. We don’t have a development committee that we’re answering to or anything like that. We have a lot of trust with the people that we work with for our ability to do exciting things, and that’s what leads to something like “Jet Lag,” which I consider very innovative.
I wouldn’t completely rule out the possibility of doing stuff with big streamers, but I think through getting pretty close to having done it, we sort of understood how good we haven’t right now. And I think we really just appreciate the way that we work and our partners and all that right now.
Chase: It’s interesting, I’ll have friends say to me all the time, oh, this would be great to like sell to Netflix or to whoever. I feel like people look at it as, this could be a stepping stone to getting it on Netflix. I’m kind of like, yeah, I don’t know, I like making it how we make it now. I like making it on Nebula and then putting it out on YouTube. We are able to make the finances work, we’re able to make the show high quality and we’re able to do it with a huge amount of creative freedom that we wouldn’t get somewhere else.
This interview has been edited and condensed.