Thursday, June 17, 2010

I'm Not Lying: This Isn't Funny

Let me give a little background.

There have only been a few times when I've watched a new game show and seen something so inappropriate and disgusting that I could barely bring myself to finish watching the premiere. Off the top of my head, I can only think of two: Game Show Network's 2006 revival of I've Got A Secret (which may have had an excellent host in Bill Dwyer, but the panel were about as disgusting as you can get) and Comedy Central's 2008 revival of The Gong Show (hosted by Dave I really need to say any more?) Those were the only two times I can think of when I came in expecting a good clean game show and got something you'd have to be drunk to enjoy.

Now the opposite has happened.

Late Night Liars is on at 11PM. The set is supposed to look like it has a bar in the back. The show opens with a sketch in which puppets are drinking backstage. In short, this is trying to do for game shows what Avenue Q did for Broadway musicals. It fails.

The show is hosted by Larry Miller, who presides over a panel of celebrity puppets. Let me clarify that statement a bit. These aren't actual celebrity puppets - as I've said, the producers reportedly couldn't afford to license the classic Muppet characters. These aren't puppets representing real-life celebrities - that would get the show sued. These are puppets representing celebrity stereotypes - specifically, a Joan Rivers parody (Shelly Oceans), a closet homosexual (William A. Mummy), a record executive (Sir Sebastian Simian), and one I can't even figure out (Cashmere Ramada). All four are treated throughout the show as if they were actual celebrities - Larry greets them by shouting "Hello stars!" ala Hollywood Squares, and they make frequent jokes about their show business exploits.

After greeting the "panel" Larry introduces two contestants, who are there to play a game that, as I predicted, is essentially the Bluff The Listener game from Wait Wait Don't Tell Me blown up to a whole format. In round one, Larry gives a Wait Wait Don't Tell Me - style bizarre category, after which each puppet gives a fact in that category - two are true, two are false. The contestants lock in which puppet they think is lying by means of buttons in their podium. A correct guess is worth...well, it's worth money, but the amount of money is apparently randomly determined and revealed at the start of the round by the announcer (a puppet called the Weasel). In round two, three of the puppets are telling the truth, and finding the liar gets you a different (but equally random) money amount. In round three, Larry gives a category and each contestant in turn picks a puppet. That puppet states a fact, and if the contestant correctly determines if that fact is true or not, he\she gets an amount of money determined by stopping a randomizer with a button on his\her podium. The contestant with the most money after this plays a bonus round in which two of the puppets are assigned categories (not silly ones this time) and alternate giving facts in their category; the contestant must state whether each fact is true or false, and eight right in forty-three seconds wins $10,000.

That's the format, and let's face it, it's awful. With one category in each round, there just plain isn't much game here, and the randomly determined money amounts don't help; to borrow a phrase from, the scoring is not silly enough to be entertaining or accurate enough to be fair. The bonus round, while an improvement over the main game, has a problem in that the puppets' main "strategy" for tricking the contestant is to state a fact that makes you think of the other puppet's category. In the premiere, one puppet's category was Kristie Alley (the actress); the other puppet's category was Jupiter (the planet). The clock starts. The first puppet, whose category is Kristie Alley, says "Can be seen by the naked eye, even when it's light out." The contestant shouts "True!" - correct for $500. Um...

Of course, that's missing the point - the game isn't supposed to be the attraction here. What's supposed to be fun about this show is hearing puppets say incredibly inappropriate things. I came into the show expecting a lot of puppet sex jokes and censor bleeps. Perhaps if I had got what I expected, I would have enjoyed it - after all, when I went to Avenue Q expecting the same thing, I got it and laughed my head off. None of the puppets on Late Night Liars, however, say anything particularly shocking or funny. I can't think of a single good joke from this show's premiere - indeed, I can't even remember most of the jokes from this show's premiere. Admittedly, this would have been even less funny had the panel been composed of human celebrities or comedians, but that's also the problem - the fact that these are puppets is supposed to be funny in and of itself. The puppets even appear in sketches bookending commercial breaks, and what's supposed to be funny is that they're puppets. Larry, while not great, is more engaging then they are and easily the best thing about the show. Could this format be done right?

I suppose we'll find out when (and if) Trust Me I'm A Game Show Host premieres.


No comments:

Post a Comment