Intensities in Ten Suburbs

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What ______ Hath Wrought: Deal or No Deal

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on January 26, 2007

The Good Dr. is not an expert when it comes to analyzing social patterns and determining culturual cuase and effect, however, occasionally a phenomenon comes along whose power is so great, its influence is impossible to deny.

You wouldn’t think such a high-concept show could be so easily imitated, but sure enough, after about six months of being The Only Game Show That Matters, the surreally popular Deal or No Deal has proven to have the same galvanizing effect on the world of Game Shows as Who Wants to Be a Millionaire did seven years ago. NBC is clearly hoping that the “Wall of Models/Panelists meets Arrogant, Greedy Contestants and Endlessly Repeated Catchphrase” gimmick that made Deal or No Deal so unexpectdly huge is easily transmutable to other formats. Here are the examples noticed thusfar:

Show Me the Money: The first Deal knock-off to appear. Hosted by William Shatner, contestants had the same “pick a random, anonymous, vaguely hot chick to decide your monetary fate” tasks as Deal, but with a trivia aspect, in which contestants had to answer one of three questions, all of which started with the same word or phrase. If the contestant didn’t like the first question, they could pass to the next one, or to the third if they didn’t like that. The questions ranged from the ridiculously easy to the impossibly difficult (if I can’t name who the first actor to win the Best Actor Academy Award, chances are your average, non-Oscar obsessive doesn’t have a prayer at it). About as mind-numbing as Deal or No Deal, but at least with a trivia element to make you feel like the contestants are doing something for their money. But apparently even that’s too much, as SMTM was cancelled only a month in. Maybe they should’ve gotten Cuba Gooding Jr. to host (what, like he has anything better to do with his time these days?)

1 vs. 100: More trivia, more wall-of-panelists, but this time, the panelists do something to–the idea is, you wanna get the trivia questions right while as many of the panelists get it wrong as possible, since you get more money for each one who does. The non-steady set of panelists means that occasionally you get smart celebrity guest stars like Ken Jennings and first-time Millionaire winner John Carpenter to show up, and low-maintenance Game Show vet host Bob Saget is the MC. This is probably the most enjoyable of Deal and its progeny, with the right mix of non-intelligence insulting trivia and fun flashy lights and big scoreboards and such, making it perfect pre-going out Friday Night watching.

Gold Case: Possibly to prove that NBC had a sense of humor about their creativity and intelligence-barren set of game show spawn, thursday night comedy 30 Rock recently featured a fairly hilarious send-up of the craze in last week’s episode, “The Head and the Hair”. In it, NBC page Kenneth Potsdown options the John McEnroe-hosted game show Gold Case, described as “Deal or No Deal meets Millionaire,” in which contestants have to pick one of ten models, each of whom is holding a case, one of which is full of gold. However, the show is short-lived, as contestants have no trouble figuring out which case holds the gold when the model’s knees start to buckle from the weight (causing Kenneth to remark “Oh, that’s right, gold’s real heavy, isn’t it?”) Perhaps because NBC people should know better than anyone, Gold Case hits the mark perfectly on the ridiculously simple, monotonous nature of these shows (as well as their utterly thoughtless titles), and provides 30 Rock with one of it’s biggest laughs to date.

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