Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Turkey

I'm exaggerating, of course. There's a lot to like about You Deserve It - but let's face it, the gimmick ruins everything.

Chris Harrison, turning in one of the best primetime game show performances I've seen in a while, plays host to a single contestant who - gimmick alert! - is not playing for him or herself but rather for a friend he\she thinks is in need. The show opens with ten minutes or so of description of this person and why he\she so desperately needs $435,000 (the theoretical maximum prize, which nobody is ever going to come close to). Watching this, I alternatively wanted to cry and throw up, and it only gets worse when we cut to co-host Brooke Burns (the former host of Dog Eat Dog - the Dancing With The Stars co-host is Brooke Burke), who tells us that said person-in-need is in some location doing something (in the premiere she was watching a movie in a theater) and has no idea that someone is on a game show winning money for her.

After all that, who cares about the actual game? Well, me, so here goes. There are five rounds worth increasing amounts of money (to give you an idea, round one is worth $10,000 and round five $250,000). To win that money, you must identify a person, place, or thing. The contestant is given the category ("Who", "What", or "Where") and a first clue for free, but said first clue is so maddeningly vague that the top prize in each round will never be won. Each additional clue costs you an amount of money determined by selecting one of nine numbers - each one has one of nine money amounts for that round behind it, and that amount is deducted from the top prize for that round (meaning you're hoping for a low number). Correctly guessing the person, place, or thing means you bank the amount of money remaining for that round, but you only get one guess, meaning you don't win anything in that round if you are wrong. After all five rounds, the money banked is spectacularly presented to the person-in-need by Brooke Burns. Hey, guess what, your friend is on a game show winning money for you! Here's a check! You Deserve It! Half of it goes to game show winnings taxes, but still, YOU DESERVE IT!

Let's start with the good - I actually kind of like this game. I found myself playing along, and the show actually manages to get the pacing right (granted there are only five rounds in each one-hour episode, but it never feels slow). I just wish we didn't have to have this whole friend-in-need gimmick, with the opening montage and the constant cuts to Brooke Burns. If you were to take out the gimmick and just keep the game and Chris Harrison, the show would be half as long and twice as good. It wouldn't be "worthy" of primetime, but you'd have a nice half-hour daytime show. As it stands, however, daytime game shows are close to death and the gimmick necessary to make this a primetime show makes me gag.

I'm being too critical, of course, and either way I'm not this show's target audience. If You Deserve It becomes a hit, then great - but it's been a while since a new primetime game show has lasted beyond a six-episode "test run", and I get the feeling this won't either. Happy Thanksgiving, Chris. At least you have The Bachelor to fall back on.

I'll review Real Deal (which, it turns out, premieres November 27, not November 25) next week.


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Dilemma: Beg For Your Life

I have a dilemma: I'm not sure what to make of BBC Radio 4's new comedy panel game show Dilemma.

Sue Perkins plays host to four panelists. The central idea of the show is that these panelists are given...well, ethical dilemmas and asked what they would do. To give one example from the premiere "You are running a marathon for charity. You are extremely tired and feeling sick halfway through. Do you give up, knowing that the money is going to charity?" The panelists try to come up with logical - or at least entertaining - answers, but naturally no matter what they say, Sue finds some way to twist it around and make the situation even worse. At the end of the round, Sue awards a point to the panelist she thinks did the best job "taking the moral high ground." No attempt is made to tell us what criteria she uses to make this decision, but then who listens to a radio comedy panel game show for the scoring?

There are two rounds like that in the premiere. There's also a (frankly much more entertaining) "Beg For Your Life" round in which each panelist has to argue in favor of the existance of a hated celebrity, and the audience votes on which celebrity they would like to save. The show ends with an incomprehensible quickfire round in which Sue seems to have decided ramdomly on a correct answer to each question. After that, the panelist with the most points wins. The end.

Is it funny? Well, yeah, but not funny enough to make it stand out from the countless comedy panel game shows BBC Radio 4 has tried out over the years. There's nothing wrong with it, and as a big fan of British radio comedy panel game shows, I'm not complaining about having more of them. Still, let me put the problem this way. Since I started writing this blog, I've reviewed four new BBC Radio 4 game shows: So Wrong It's Right, It's Your Round, The Third Degree, and Dilemma. Let's imagine that Dilemma had a "Beg For Your Life" round in which each panelist had to defend the existance of one of these four shows.

I'd vote for It's Your Round.

I'll review You Deserve It next week, assuming my DVR gets the whole show - my local ABC station is pushing it to the middle of the night to make room for a football game.


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Do It Again Rockapella?

There's no actual game show news this week, but here's something vaguely game show related: a group led by Jennifer Lopez has bought the rights to make a movie based on the long-dormant Carmen Sandiego property, with Jennifer possibly playing Carmen herself.

Good news? Maybe. If\when said movie comes out, I'll certainly go see it. Of course, as the earliest this movie could come out would likely be 2014, I'd look pretty silly sitting in the theater at age twenty-five...but I wouldn't be there for the movie anyway. I'd be there to support the game show, which is likely the one kids game show I remember best from my childhood. This is despite the fact that when I actually watch the show on YouTube or something, it's not nearly as good as I remember. Somehow, I can't shake my nostalgia for this show.

I want this show revived. If the revival is good, then great; if the revival is bad, at least then it's out of my system. Mill Creek Entertainment is releasing a complete series DVD set of Where On Earth Is Carmen Sandiego? (which was the cartoon, not the game show) on February 14, 2012, and that's the reason I'm going to buy it. That's the reason that, if\when this movie is released, I will go see it. It will probably be a terrible Spy Kids clone, but that's likely what I deserve for begging for this show to come back.

I'll review BBC Radio 4's new game show Dilemma (which premieres November 13) next week.


Thursday, November 3, 2011

Remember The Review I Am Tired Of Writing?

Well, I'm probably going to have to write it a few more times, because premiere dates have come out for some new primetime game shows.
  • On November 21, ABC will premiere You Deserve It, a show built around the idea that all the money won by each contestant will go to another person that contestant thinks is in need (oh good, a sobfest!) The host is Chris Harrison off The Bachelor.
  • On December 19, NBC will premiere Who's Still Standing?, which is built around the idea that if you lose the game, you fall through a trapdoor in the floor (yeah, never heard that one). The host is Ben Bailey off Cash Cab. 
  • Coming to the History Channel on November 25: Real Deal, a game show that apparently applies Deal Or No Deal-like game mechanics (all the way down to the phrases "Deal" and "No Deal") to an appraisal show in the vein of Antiques Roadshow. Huh.
Moving away from primetime, here's a few news briefs:
  • Veteran British broadcaster Jimmy Savile, who did host at least one game show, has died at age 84. He's apparently a big deal in the UK, though I know next to nothing about him.
  • One of the longest serving game show hosts in the world has finally retired - Mac MacGarry, who spent fifty years as host of It's Academic, a local high school quiz bowl show in Washington DC. Hillary Howard will replace him.
  • BBC Radio 4's Just A Minute will celebrate its 45th anniversary in 2012 in two...interesting...ways. First, several episodes will be taped in India (apparently the show has a huge following there). Second, there will be an attempt (and it's not the first attempt) at a TV version on BBC2. Both will apparently air in early 2012.
  • Finally, what's really good news in my book: the BBC Radio 4 Monday afternoon game show slot has survived the station's November shuffling of its schedule. Beginning November 7, such long-running shows as Brain Of Britain, Counterpoint, Round Britain Quiz, and Quote Unquote will be heard at 3PM GMT (as opposed to 1:30PM GMT). The slot is also now available as a podcast.
Enough for now. If you're wondering about a certain other British game show, the current word is that Jeff Stelling is indeed leaving Countdown, but I don't have the slightest idea who the new host will be.