With regards to last night/yesterday morning’s post, I’m going to bed as soon as I’m done with this.
It started with Deal or No Deal. A game that had absolutely no skill involved, but at the very least, the range of numbers in play gave the game a mathematical feel (and one need only ask hmtriplecrown about that). Then came Identity, a show where the only skill involved was to be able to listen to Penn’s agonizingly staccato hosting style.
After that came Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?, which may be the only show in television history that probably makes it a point to not draft contestants who perform well on their entrance tests. Next in line was National Bingo Night, which managed to trump Identity for having the single most egregiously bad rule of the major prime-time shows on the air right now (that being how ties go to the audience and not the single player).
Set for Life premiered on Friday night, and they finally pulled it off. They finally managed to put on the air the single dumbest game show ever conceived. Not just in format, but in the execution of that format.
First off, I should mention for the purpose of full disclosure that I did not watch the full episode on Friday. I didn’t even watch an entire game. And you know what? I didn’t really have to. The game only amounts to taking one step either forward or backward on a money ladder; I don’t think I really missed any wrinkles in the gameplay by just watching the front and back ends of the game.
Right out of the gate, SFL stumbles. We’re introduced our first contestant, and learn that the base value that he’s playing with is $4625, based on his performance in the game’s qualifying round. That’s all fine and dandy, except for one little problem: They don’t show us the qualifying round. Uhh… what? Probably the one element of the game that very well require some brain power, and if not, at least there appears to be enough variation in the result that a number as imprecise as $4625 would be considered viable, and they don’t bother showing it to us? Look, I know that people’s attention spans are probably so short nowadays that they no longer have the patience to wait for their Hot Pocket to get done in the microwave, but come on. If you’re not going to show the first part of the game, at least explain how this guy ended up with a base of $4625.
(EDIT: If the qualifying round for the game is anything like the one used for the British counterpart, it’s basically the same thing as what they show on TV, except with a money ladder. That said, it’s almost a good thing that they don’t show it on TV, since the stakes of the qualifying round would be completely overshadowed by the second round. Even so, they should at least say as much on the air.)
Meanwhile, we’re also introduced to the contestant’s brother. I know what you’re thinking: wasn’t this supposed to be a one-player game? I mean, surely picking random numbers can’t be so mentally taxing that we suddenly need two people to pull it off! We soon learn that this other person isn’t actually playing, but merely serving as the player’s “Guardian Angel”, there to step in just in case greed gets the better of the bonafide player and he drives himself off a cliff. The GA is taken to a soundproof room where he’s only allowed to see the status of the game, but is otherwise isolated from the proceedings. Of course, there in the room is the omnipresent Big Red Button To Hit If You Want To Chicken Out®, which the GA can press to lock in the player’s winnings. Of course, the player doesn’t know when this button is pressed until the game’s over. More on this in a moment.
The televised game (note the distinction) is played with 15 pedestals, located all over the main stage. Inside 11 of the pedestals are white lights, which move the player one step up the payment ladder; while four pedestals contain red lights, which knock the player down one step. The ladder itself starts at one single payment of the player’s base pay, and each rung of the ladder increases the number of monthly payments of that base number. If a player can reach the top of the ladder, he’s “Set For Life”, meaning that he’ll get that base amount every month ostensibly for the rest of his life. Finding all four red lights ends the game and loses everything. The player is allowed to stop before finding every red light, but only if his last pick had a white light.
Naturally, each time a pedestal is chosen, about 20 minutes is spent vamping up the ramifications of each move, and on at least one occasion they pulled one of those cliché “let’s force the viewers to sit through a commercial break before we reveal what happened” tricks. This is made even more aggravating by the fact that the contestant himself was in charge of pulling the light out of the container. And either he was told to do it as slowly as possible, or there’s some sort of vacuum action going on here, because there’s no way it should take 15 seconds to pull out a 9-inch cylinder.
So that’s basically the game: pick a number, pull out the light, repeat. Again, it’s like Deal or No Deal without all those confusing dollar amounts to fog things up.
Our hero uncovers a red light on his first pick, but ends the game on a six-bagger tear, and ends with a 10-year commitment of $4625 a month – a total of $555,000. But hold the phone! He hasn’t gotten that money yet. Now we hear from the Guardian Angel. After each successful selection, the GA gives a recorded clip regarding whether he decides it’s safe to play on or to stop. Not only does this part of the game serve only to chew up more time that doesn’t actually involve gameplay (remember, these decisions were all made earlier on and they’re only being replayed), but they also cause a major buzzkill for both the player and the audience. Fortunately, the GA in this game decided to end only one level before the player on stage quit, so he still ended up getting a 5-year deal. But aside from the fact that this decision is being put in the hands of someone who’s not actually playing the game, this element of the game basically means that every selection made after the GA puts the brakes on is wasted time. I’m sure the player is pretty pissed that his brother basically just chopped his winnings in half, and I’m sure that the seven people watching this show would likely have the five minutes spent on that last pick back. Granted, the flipside of this is true, and I’m sure a contestant will be gratified to see their GA end the game just before they bust out, but I know that many people watch these shows just for the chance to watch someone who doesn’t know when to stop and crashes spectacularly.
So, there you have it. A game that is so completely pointless that it makes Deal or No Deal look intellectual, complete with parts that make absolutely no sense at all. And while Jimmy Kimmel can certainly thank game shows for the fame he now enjoys, he certainly looked unmotivated in his hosting job on this show. Granted, he sounds pretty bored most of the time anyway, but I couldn’t shake the suspicion that the only reason he was there was for his monthly check.
The verdict is as follows:
Gameplay: 0/3. Even if they did air the qualifying round, I doubt it would overcome the sheer inanity of what they showed us on TV.
Host: 0/3. To be honest, I’ve never been a fan of Jimmy Kimmel, and this show does nothing to endear me to him.
Presentation: 1/2. The light pedestals were all right, but the musical cues – particularly the one played when the contestant is pulling out the next light – are really unnecssary.
Execution: 1/2. To the show’s credit, I do like the fact that the winnings are paid in monthly installments, rather in one lump sum. I’m sure that will also help the players spend their winnings in a rational manner. But I still don’t understand why they don’t televise the opening part of the game.
The total score is 2 out of 10, matching Identity for the worst of the newest crop of prime-time shows.
Memo to any network listening: let me pitch The Time Bomb to you. Please. I’ll even let you have it at a discount. Anything to get this potboiler garbage off the air.