Thursday, December 29, 2011

Radio With Pictures

I will make this clear: I adore Wait Wait Don't Tell Me. Well, I adore it on the radio, anyway.

Going into the BBC America broadcast of the first Wait Wait Don't Tell Me TV special, I knew there was absolutely no chance that the TV producers would do this right and produce a TV version of Wait Wait Don't Tell Me that combines the comedy of the radio show with visual elements and games. That would have been amazing, but it was never going to happen. There were really only two things the TV producers could possibly do:
  1. They could simply point a camera at a taping of the radio show.
  2. They could make a disastrous attempt to make Wait Wait Don't Tell Me, which is really only a game show in the loosest sense of the word, into a generic "modern" game show with a $1,000,000 jackpot.
They went with the first option, and the resulting one-hour special was very funny, but there was nothing in it to necessitate showing it on television. It was more of a concert film then a TV special, all the way down to being taped in the show's usual home base (the Chase Bank Auditorium in Chicago), everyone wearing radio headsets, and the return of the famous "announcer Carl Kasell's voice on your answering machine" prize. Peter Sagal and the panelists were in their usual fine form, but as if to rub in the point that there's nothing new here, a slightly different cut of the same episode was broadcast on public radio stations the next day in Wait Wait Don't Tell Me's usual slot.

There isn't much more to say. Truth be told, I was actually hoping the producers would take the second option, not because "Million Dollar Wait Wait Don't Tell Me" would have been a better show, but because it would have been so much more fun to review!

I suppose I should use this as proof that what makes a good radio show doesn't always make an even better TV show, but I'm still heavily looking forward to the upcoming British TV version of Just A Minute. Go figure.

See you in 2012,


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Drop! Drop! Drop!...From NBC's Schedule

Before I get to that, however, Larry Emdur's appearance on The Price Is Right was preempted in my area for live coverage of the funeral of a firefighter who was killed in the line of duty. I eventually watched online, and while it was great to see Larry, the fact is that he appeared for about as long as I expected him to (which is to say, not very long). The Double Showcase Win was great to watch, though.

Moving to Who's Still Standing, I will say this: Ben Bailey is excellent. He is also, to put it lightly, the only good thing about the show.

A single contestant (the "hero") is standing on a trap door in the center of the set, surrounded by ten other contestants on their own trap doors (the "strangers".) The hero is playing for $1,000,000; the strangers can win $10,000 by defeating the hero. The hero picks a stranger, and Ben asks questions at each of them in turn until one of them gets an answer wrong. The questions are pretty insultingly easy, and to make matters worse, a few letters of the correct answer are flashed on the screen along with the question.

When one of the contestants (the hero or the chosen stranger) misses a question, he\she leaves with nothing  and is eliminated by falling through that trap door with the audience shouting "Drop! Drop! Drop!". Every time a stranger drops, the hero banks the amount of money that stranger is worth (a few thousand dollars) and is given the option of quitting. If the hero survives the game (either by quitting or defeating all ten strangers and winning $1,000,000), he\she is given the option of dropping anyway because, you know, they darn well can. At the end of the show, any strangers still on their trap doors play a speed round in which Ben goes around the circle asking each stranger a question in turn. A correct answer adds $1,000 to the pot; an incorrect answer opens your trap door. When only one stranger is left, he\she wins the pot and is given the same option of leaving "through the door...OR THROUGH THE FLOOR?" At the end of the show, they drop Ben too because again, they darn well can.

That may sound fun on paper, but it really embodies everything wrong with game shows right now. The show is obviously choreographed and edited heavily, all the way down to holiday bumpers being added in post to match up with the airdate NBC decided on months after the show was taped. Commercial breaks come not only in the middle of rounds, but in the middle of a question being asked. The incredibly annoying theme music plays loudly and consistently throughout the show. I could go on. Even the trap door gimmick has been done plenty of times before - Game Show Network's Russian Roulette would likely be a certified modern classic had it aired on any other channel. This format originated in Israel. Perhaps they did it right. Perhaps if it were exported to some other country, they'd do it right - but couldn't we just revive Russian Roulette instead?

Am I being too harsh? Probably - but it doesn't really matter, as this show can't possibly last beyond the six or seven episodes all primetime game shows get right now. At least Ben has Cash Cab to fall back on.

Next week - Wait Wait Don't Tell Me! If they have to add a $1,000,000 jackpot to it I will throw something.

Happy holidays,


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Larry Emdur Is On The Price Is Right Today...

...and I have to wait to write about it, as I'm going out of town!

I will be back next week with my thoughts on Larry's appearance with Drew Carey as well as a review of Who's Still Standing.


Thursday, December 8, 2011

Wait Wait...There's Some News

There is some stuff going on right now...
  • The new host of Channel 4's Countdown has been named as Nick Hewer, one of Alan Sugar's assistants on the British version of The Apprentice (Alan Sugar is the Donald Trump equivalent). His first episode will air on January 9, 2012.
  • On January 2, 2012, Channel 4 will air a crossover special between Countdown and their comedy panel game show 8 Out Of 10 Cats. 8 Out Of 10 Cats host Jimmy Carr will host a game of Countdown between 8 Out Of 10 Cats team captains Sean Lock and Jon Richardson.
  • Remember the episode of The Price Is Right that was taped with Larry Emdur, former host of The Price Is Right in Australia, co-hosting with Drew Carey? It will apparently air on CBS on December 15.
  • Finally, I can't resist saying this...and if we finally come to television panel, we'll ask you about it on Wait Wait Don't Tell Me! The NPR topical comedy panel game show will air its first TV special on December 23 on BBC America. Great news in my book.
We'll see if it stays that way...


Thursday, December 1, 2011

Big Deal

There honestly isn't much to say about the History Channel's new show Real Deal.

A participant ("contestant" somehow seems like the wrong word here) bring their antiques and collectible items to one of the show's four dealers. The dealer makes an offer and tries to buy the participant's item for as little money as possible. The participant has the option of taking the dealer's guaranteed offer or putting the item up for auction at the same auction house in Los Angeles, where it could be sold for more or less money. Repeat three times, with each dealer looking at one participant, and that's it for a half-hour episode. The auctioneer is Bryan Knox, but there's no on-camera host, just generic voiceover narration by Tyler Moore.

It's a nice little diversion that would make a decent daytime show, but there's really nothing too special here, and it just barely qualifies as a game show. The Deal Or No Deal elements I was expecting - such as, well, the phrases "Deal" and "No Deal" - are nowhere to be found.

My final verdict - and I feel terrible saying this: No Deal. I somehow get the feeling the original British show is ten times better, though.