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.