Can Primetime Game Shows Stop With the 'Millionaire' Look Already?
by Joel Keller, posted Mar 15th 2010 4:23PM
I've been a game show fan for as long as I can remember. I can recall obscure games from the '70s like 'The Better Sex' and I revel in the classics, from 'Match Game' all the way up to 'Who Wants to be a Millionaire.' So I'll watch any new game show at least once.
All of this is how I explain to myself how I blew two hours watching the first two episodes of NBC's 'Minute to Win It' last night. It's a pretty straightforward game: complete ten physical games, win a million bucks. The games themselves use everyday household items, and variations of them could be found at carnivals, state fairs and church festivals around the country. In fact, there was a game show on for years called 'Beat the Clock' that had a very similar premise.
But 'Minute to Win It' was important. Why? Because of the dark, space-station set and swirling lights. Because of the female British voice that felt vaguely futuristic. In fact, the show felt a lot more like 'Millionaire' than a carnival game. And it was so not necessary.
The dark set and swirling lights look for primetime game shows is now a look that's over a decade old. 'Millionaire' pioneered it, and at the time it first aired here in the US in 1999, the look felt modern, and it was unlike the brightly-lit, bell-and-buzzer filled shows that preceded it. But, TV being TV, where any good idea is Xeroxed to death, almost every single game show that has premiered since has used this kind of set.
Did 'Million Dollar Password,' for instance, really need the lights and intimidating music? Absolutely not; the show had been interesting to watch for decades without any music at all. '1 vs. 100' and 'Deal or No Deal' would have been just as popular (at least until they were overplayed into obscurity) if they took place at Universal CityWalk than on a darkened set. What people love about game shows was the game play, the contestants, and the host, not a bunch of swirling lights.
'Minute to Win It' is supposed to be lighthearted and fun. On top of it, the show's use of everyday household items makes it a fairly cheap game to produce. How hard would it have been to take she show on the road, playing to audiences around the country in various outdoor venues? The interstitials NBC showed around the commercial breaks depicted people all over the place having fun with the games that were designed for the show.
How much fun would it have been to have the show roll into a town and play to an audience that rarely gets to see a TV show being shot? Heck, the show's host, Guy Fieri, already has a big roadshow where he greets fans and does cooking demonstrations (I read that it includes a six-foot-tall blender for margarita making), so it's not like he'd be unwilling to do it.
Instead, we get a look that's supposed to be "intimidating" but just looks tired. Maybe one day someone will understand that and create a look that invokes a completely different feeling.