CULVER CITY – In the wake of the worldwide success of the Netflix limited series The Queen’s Gambit, about the rise of fictional chess genius Beth Harmon, Amazon Studios has placed an order for a similar limited series about someone who is really good at Jenga.
“We couldn’t be more excited about You Take a Block From the Bottom, our very original series about Frank Lake, a Jenga genius who is going to take a block from the middle of America’s hearts and put it on top,” said Albert Cheng, the co-head of television for Amazon Studios.
Unlike the glamorous outcast Beth Harmon, played wonderfully in The Queen’s Gambit by Anya Taylor-Joy, Frank Lake is a 45-year old managing consultant from New Jersey with exceptionally light fingers and a finely honed sense of balance. Creator and showrunner Jennifer Basten said it was a no-brainer to cast Kevin James in the starring role.
“You need someone who represents what Jenga is all about,” said Basten. “And Kevin James delivers that in spades, or in this case, 54 nearly identical wooden blocks. You need someone who can make their eyes go big with suspense when the tower almost falls over, but also someone who can yell ‘Oh shit!’ really loudly when the tower does fall over. Kevin can do both those things.”
The series explores the cost of living a life “always on the brink of toppling”, according to Cheng. Abandoned by his parents at a Chuck-E-Cheese at the age of 17, Lake soon falls into the dark side of the competitive Jenga world while trying to outrun his demons: a compulsive desire to make shorter structures into taller ones, and an addiction to Grape Crush. Amazon Studios has already budgeted several million dollars towards digital technology to change James’ appearance in the early episodes so he looks seventeen years old, and from New Jersey.
Hasbro, who is the official marketer of Jenga, is anticipating a huge bump in sales after the series is released. They are planning to coordinate the premiere of the series with the launch of weJenga, an online Jenga site where players can play against both their friends and some of the world’s greatest Jenga strategists.
In related news, Disney+ is expected to announce the development of their Scattergories-based anthology drama, Scatterstories, later this week.