At their best, game shows entertain, educate and inspire by putting the mental and/or physical smarts of contestants to the test. Every classic game from Jeopardy! to Password has that thread, and as recent hits like Cash Cab and Family Game Night prove, you can be inventive about the process and make it work.
Even The Price Is Right, at the core, is all about how you know the worth of merchandise. Great premise, and it’s working so well, the show starts its 40th season this fall on CBS.
ABC’s 101 Ways To Leave A Game Show, running Tuesday nights this summer, represents the opposite end of the scale. We’re talking about the game show which, when boiled down, is out to do only two things–humiliate and embarrass contestants. The kind of game show that gives the genre an awful rep, where you wonder if the people behind its creation and operation can hold their heads up, or sleep well.
During each hour episode, contestants pick answers to one multiple-choice question after another, and whoever gets the wrong answer in the bunch is jettisoned from the game. By jettisoned, we refer to strapped on a plane at take-off, dropped off a moving semi-truck, water-hosed through a wall in front of a cliff, flipped off the side of a building. That’s just one hour’s worth of exits. Yes, contestants get stunt harnesses to prevent injury, but the point is to see them depart in a blaze of some sort, and for the audience to see the departures over and over and over and over again via endless replays.
To use an ABC Wide World of Sports-created metaphor, the constant agony of defeat, exclamation point on agony.
The winner of this contest gets $50,000, after being put through near-miss after miss. The way things work around here, winning the dough comes across as the farthest thing in the winner’s mind.
And what does ABC highlight in promoting 101 Ways on-air or press releases? How contestants depart, little else. As for the contestants themselves, all we get to see is their anxiety and dread about what game they’re playing on this program. They don’t appear happy about the situation. Appetizing TV? One can’t fathom.
The good news is that 101 Ways, a sure candidate for worst new series on broadcast TV this year in this bystander’s view, is turning audiences away. Each week’s ratings have been, to this point, lower than the previous week. Instead of turning out a game show that elevates both contestants and viewers, ABC trumped up a program that’s a blemish on all involved and game shows in general
Take your own advice, 101 Ways To Leave A Game Show. When your six-episode run is up near the end of July, just leave.
Until the next time, stay well and stay tuned!