In the vast Wizarding World of Harry Potter, there are plenty of spells to face any challenge, from fixing your bandaged glasses to battling your darkest demons. But the team behind Warner Bros’ new trivia series “Harry Potter: Hogwarts Tournament of Houses” quickly learned there is no amount of magic that can stump the collective intellect and near impenetrable knowledge of the most devoted fandom in the world.
To stage the elaborate event, timed to the 20th anniversary of “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone’s” big screen premiere in November 2001, executive producers Yasmin Shackleton and Robin Ashbrook dove deep into the world of the eight beloved films only to come up for air and realize they had barely scratched the surface.
“We did a lot, and I mean a lot, of run-throughs with Harry Potter fans, and we quickly discovered after the first one that our questions were nowhere near hard enough because the people who are fans of this franchise are truly, truly invested,” Shackleton said. “They’ve watched the films hundreds of times, they’ve read all the books and they've been to the theme parks. So we quickly understood we needed harder questions.”
Once they began mining every nook and cranny of the franchise, their four-episode trivia extravaganza began to take shape.
Premiering Nov. 28 on TBS and Cartoon Network, the “Tournament of Houses” is just that. Players from around the world will team up under the flag of their chosen Hogwarts house – Gryffindor, Slytherin, Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff – and battle each other for Harry Potter trivia supremacy through a variety of questions and tests.
The game will rely heavily on clips and props from the films, all playing out on a stage resembling Hogwarts’ Great Hall. Film alums — including Tom Felton, Matthew Lewis, Shirley Henderson and more — will also stop by to help challenge the teams.
But don’t expect the players to just be millennials who dined out on the Harry Potter phenomenon their entire childhoods. Ashbrook said new generations continue to find the stories, so their contestants reflect that with ages ranging from 15 to 76.
Guiding this pop culture journey is none other than Dame Helen Mirren, an Oscar winner and fan of Harry Potter who may be the only British actor to never appear in the films.
“The fact she wasn’t in any of the movies is, first of all, amazing because this franchise feels like it has British acting royalty in (every film),” Ashbrook said. “So bringing in Dame Helen instantly felt like someone who can show how special this event series is and it was surprisingly simple to get her on board.”
He said Mirren simply wanted to know how the show and, more importantly, its inquisitive structure would serve both the diehards and the unenlightened.
As Ashbrook explained, while a prerequisite knowledge of the intricacies of Harry Potter is certainly welcomed when tuning in, the producers wanted the uninitiated to be able to play along.
To that end, more than half of the trivia is multiple-choice questions, with on-screen options for anyone to toss out a guess. In honor of the first film’s 20th anniversary, it also skews heavily toward a knowledge of the films.
Shackleton said about 80 percent of the questions actually come from the films, so viewers can refresh their knowledge before playing by bingeing the franchise – now streaming on both HBO Max and Peacock.
Above all, the energetic series was crafted with love and appreciation for the devotion the franchise has inspired in its fanbase. It’s a celebration of the pure joy of the series, best encapsulated in the sight of Mirren being showering in Hogwarts acceptance letters from an eruptive fireplace.
But Ashbrook and Shackleton would also be lying if they didn’t want even the most devoted Harry Potter fans to feel a little sweat on their brow as they faced their questions. After all, they certainly did while coming up with them.
“At the beginning, I don’t think I would have gotten one out of 10,” Shackleton said. “But by the end, dare I say, I think I would give most Harry Potter fans a little bit of a run for their money.”
“Harry Potter: Hogwarts Tournament of Champions” premieres 8 p.m. Nov. 28 on TBS and Cartoon Network. The final episode airs Dec. 19.
This article originally appeared on Wilmington StarNews: Harry Potter trivia series pits Hogwarts' fans against each other