Wednesday, December 21, 2005

What's the Dealio?

Most Tuesday evenings, my quartet rehearses at my house for three hours, so if it's on TV on Tuesday night, chances are that I don't see it. (The exception being 24, which I taped every week when it aired on Tuesdays.) During the holidays, however, the quartet takes a couple of weeks off after our last Christmas performance, so I managed to catch the second installment of the NBC game show event, Deal or No Deal.

My response? No Deal.

The problem with the show, much to my surprise, is not host Howie Mandel. Howie is one of those performers — like Jim Carrey, Adam Sandler, and Pauly Shore — whose appearance triggers within my body a galvanic response that sends my right hand rocketing in the direction of the nearest remote control. But the shaven-pated Howie's actually not too bad on Deal or No Deal — he's likeable and enthusiastic without veering off into the eighth dimension of goofiness as he tends to do in other venues. I've seen worse game show hosts. (Yes, John McEnroe, Rolf Benirschke, and Michael Reilly, I'm talking about you.)

What I found frustrating about DOND is that it really isn't much of a game. And it's not much of a game for an entire hour.

For those of you who haven't yet tuned in, DOND involves a contestant selecting a briefcase from among 26 such cases carried onstage by a like number of slinky model-type women. (The models are addressed by Howie only by number and first name, which only compounds the confusion arising from the fact that they all look somewhat alike. Even the ostensibly ethnic ones.) The briefcases contain placards reflecting cash amounts ranging from one cent to one million dollars. Having chosen a case to defend, the contestant calls upon each model in turn to open her case and reveal the amount inside.

As possible outcomes are eliminated, a mysterious figure called "the Banker" (actually, the program's producer) periodically telephones Howie on the set to offer the contestant a sum of money, in exchange for which the contestant would relinquish claim to the amount in the chosen, but still unopened, briefcase. At each juncture, the contestant must decide whether to accept the Banker's offer, or play on for the amount in the chosen case: to say, in other words, "Deal" or "No Deal."

And that's all there is. No skill or knowledge involved. The contestant doesn't have to do anything except continue to say "Deal" or "No Deal" until he or she either takes the Banker's offer, or exhausts the supply of models with cases. No one answers any questions or solves any riddles or puzzles. A chimpanzee could be the contestant, and it wouldn't materially affect the game play whatsoever.

I suppose this sort of game appeals to people who might be intimidated by a quiz program such as Jeopardy! or Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. Watching it demands nothing of the audience. All that's required is to sit there and see what the contestant will do at each offer. There's no real way to play along, other than to root either for or against the contestant. (There is, apparently, some form of online version of the game to be played on the show's Web site, but I didn't check it out.) In this sense, Deal or No Deal is merely a flashy variation of baccarat, only with Howie Mandel and 26 models instead of a dealer in a tuxedo.

If this is as exciting a concept as the networks can concoct, I weep for the future of primetime game shows.

4 insisted on sticking two cents in:

Blogger Janet offered these pearls of wisdom...

Instead of watching shows like Deal No Deal you should watch reruns of the shows you miss. Like NBC once said if you haven't seen it, it's new to you. Then all you need is a tivo and voila! You're all caught up!:)

4:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous offered these pearls of wisdom...

this show is scripted as hell...
i'm insulted

9:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous offered these pearls of wisdom...

I miss the flashing lights and epilipsy enducing lights of 'Press Your Luck"

4:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous offered these pearls of wisdom...

The play at home bit where you can win 10 grand sounds kinda cool...has anyone tried it?

1:06 AM  

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