Thursday, April 8, 2010

High School Word Game?

Well, I've been promising it for weeks, now at last the episode I saw has aired. What do I really think of High School Quiz Show?

I'll tell you: I think the contestants are geeky, the host is annoying, the set is tacky, and the lack of prizes is cheap. The problem is, the exact same thing could be said about one of my favorite game shows of all time.

High School Quiz Show, for starters, has a terrible name. I've heard rumors that WGBH chose to call it that because they figured kids would equate it with High School Musical...let's just say I hope that isn't true. My next observation - and this is true of most of the local high school quiz bowl shows I've seen - the contestants are (A) really geeky and (B) don't really seem to want to be there - they look like they were just dragged into this by their teachers.

The I said on March 25, it's "a pretty straightforward local high school quiz bowl show." The host - I'll certainly applaud WGBH for hiring a young woman stand-up comedian rather than the professor-types who populate most of these shows, but Dhaya Lakshminarayanan comes across to me as more annoying than anything else. There are no prizes, the set is tacky, and I've already forgotten what the music sounds like (not a good thing). Why am I not declaring this show awful? Well...I'd be contradicting myself. One of my all-time favorite game shows is Countdown.

If you haven't heard of Countdown, there's a reason: it's a British show, and has never had an American version (to be fair, it's actually a French format, but the version I'm used to is the British version). It's a word game vaguely akin to Scrabble (the board game, not the game show), and it fits nearly every one of the tropes described above. Geeky contestants? Oh yes. Annoying host? The current one, Jeff Stelling, sure is. No prizes? The season champion gets a complete Oxford English Dictionary. Tacky set? You bet. So what's the difference?

Well...Countdown is just that unique and enjoyable a game. It's the one international format that I want to come to America more than any other...but a game show with no prizes would never work on national television in America, and I somehow can't see Countdown giving away $1,000,000. Now I'm starting to wonder - does a local high school game show have to be a quiz game? Even if you couldn't get the rights to the name Countdown, would a similar word game work in America on a local, area-by-area basis?

Of course we're never going to really know this. Countdown isn't coming to America (although it is launching in Australia soon, again with no prizes), and a local high school game show is never going to be anything other than a quiz game. All I can say now is that since WGBH considered me for an internship on High School Quiz Show...I really, really hope they aren't reading this.


1 comment:

  1. Hey Aaron,

    We ARE reading this (High School Quiz Show) and very much appreciate the feedback about what's working and not working on the show from your point of view. You make a number of excellent points, many of which we agree with and are already having discussions about in anticipation of the finals and Season 2. I'll make a point of checking out Countdown! Keep the feedback coming.

    Hillary Wells
    High School Quiz Show

    PS - You'll be happy to know that the rumor isn't true on the title choice... Happy to give you the back story if you're interested.