I guess I should place a little disclaimer on this review given the fact that the two “preview” episodes were played with “celebrity” contestants who were playing for charity, and things may be slightly different when real contestants play for the bigger prizes. But then again, I have issues with the celebrity/charity element of these episodes anyway, so I have no qualms putting this show on trial right now.
And the verdict is guilty. So, so guilty. The full title of the show is “Temptation: The New Sale of the Century”, but a more accurate title is “Temptation: Sale of the Century for People with Half a Brain Stem”.
When I tried out to be a contestant on this show, they showed us the pilot, and about 90% of the stuff they showed on that tape made it through to the real thing. So I knew well ahead of time that this show was going to be a train wreck if some major surgery wasn’t performed on this baby before they started taping. If anything, some parts of the show were made noticeably worse. Namely, the theme song.
If you’re familiar with the Australian version of Temptation (which recently got canned so Channel Nine could retain the rights to WWTBAM), you’d know that the music on that show is actually quite nice. Granted, we’ve unfortunately moved past the era where themes of this nature had a discernable melody, but the piano arrangement made for a nice music bed for the various intros and set-ups. This theme sounds like it was rejected from a high school prom fashion show. The set looked decent enough, although not as sleek as the Aussie version.
The game starts with all three players given 20 dol-… oh, wait, I’m sorry. Temptation Dollars. Get used to hearing this term when you watch the show; you’ll hear it at least 15 times an episode. The first round is a 30-second sprint of buzz-in questions; like past versions, you either win or lose 5 Temptation Dollars (henceforth labeled T$, so as to set them apart from the genuine article) based on whether or not you answer correctly. So far, meh. The material is almost exclusively pop culture, so no need to really grind your neurons here.
After the speed round, it’s time for an Instant Bargain, in which the player in the lead has the opportunity to buy a prize at a cost of part of their score. Bonus money may be offered, and the host may reduce the price, but eventually you’ll get a “shop clock” of five seconds to make a decision – and this is where my opinion of the show starts to take a dive. Rossi Moreale, the host of the show, doesn’t have the clamorous voice that Jim Perry had, but putting a CG clock on the screen just doesn’t have the same effect of “Going once… Going TWICE…” And in any event, there’s no way in hell I’d want to buy the majority of the shlock they offer on this show. I mean, I realize they’re operating on a more stringent budget than game shows use to enjoy in the good old days, but if the best you can offer someone is a pair of shoes and two plane tickets from a travel site for $13, then I’m going to be doing an Alice Conkwright impression.*
After the first Instant Bargain of the day, we move on to the Fame Game – and if my feelings for the show were sliding downhill already, this sends it into a freefall. Unlike the ’80s version, where the host read clues to a famous person, place or thing, for the right to pick a number on the board to win either a smallish prize or money towards their score, the current version tosses all that out the window in favor of a Hangman puzzle for a flat T$15. Way to completely eviscerate one of the most familiar and intriguing elements of the original show, guys.
And if that’s not enough, a new game has been brought to the fold, entitled “Knock Off”. In this game, the players are shown 12 answers to a category, 9 of which are right and 3 are wrong. Players take turns picking an answer; if it’s answer, the player wins anywhere from T$2 (which is less than half the value of one question) to T$10. Pick a wrong answer, and you’re locked out for the rest of the round. That loud thumping noise you hear right now is the sound of Peter Tomarken trying to bust out of his grave and sue Fremantle for copyright infringement.
Another 30-second speed round is played, in which all of the questions are answered with one of two choices. Because that first round was so mentally taxing that we had to dumb things down further by reducing everything to “J-Lo Song” or “J-Lo Movie”. From there, we reach the Instant Cash segment, where the leader is given the choice to sacrifice whatever amount he’s leading by to select from three wallets. Two contain $500; the other has $2500. To the best of my knowledge, it’s the only instance where they actually offer more than the ’80s version (which had two $100 boxes and the jackpot box). From there, it’s one final speed round where the questions are worth plus or minus T$10, and the leader at the end of the round is crowned the day’s winner.
Whoever is the champion now has the opportunity to use the Temptation Dollars they’ve earned to that point to buy some larger prizes – but not before playing a game of Super Knock-Off. This time, only 6 of the 12 answers are correct, bearing Temptation Dollar amounts from T$25 to T$100. The contestant can pick as many answers as he wants, but if a wrong answer is given, his earnings in the round are wiped out (Gee, that sounds familiar!).
Now, the episodes shown tonight featured performers from past seasons of American Idol, so we didn’t actually see any shopping footage. But if the pilot is any indication, it’s back to the standard procedure: the player can either buy a prize with their current bankroll and retire, or return the next day to earn more. And I guess I should warn the purists right now: just in case the T$941 car wasn’t a clue, there’s no such thing as “buying the lot”. There’s Prize A, Prize B, Prize C, and The Car. Pick one.
To be honest, if this show was just a little bit different, I would probably enjoy it a lot. Super Knock-Off actually works as an endgame, even if it is awful derivative. The unfortunate thing about it is that its presence probably resulted in the “one prize per customer” rule, since amassing enough money to cross that threshold just got a lot easier. Still, I always wished there was a way to accelerate a champion’s campaign, and that endgame does it quite nicely. But it does not belong in the front game, for the simple reason that it makes the show now feel schizophrenic and rushed. We keep going back and forth from Q&A to word puzzles to Knock Off to Q&A again and back to Knock Off, that the show never gets a chance to get into a rhythm.
Now, a word on the preview episodes themselves. As mentioned above, the show featured three former finalists on American Idol as the show’s contestants, playing for charity. (I did find it amusing that the host referred to them as “your favorite American Idol contestants”. If they were our favorites, they would’ve won, wouldn’t they?) But two things about these preview episodes did not sit well with me. For one thing, SotC as a charity game plays very awkwardly. Take for instance the Instant Bargain, where the players were offered a prize for themselves, plus money for their charity. Granted, the players managed to stay on task and play with the charity’s interests in mind, but still – if we’re doing this all for charity, then why do we need to bribe the players?
But even more unsettling than that was the fact that there was no mention whatsoever – not by the host, not in the credits, nowhere – of any sort of consolation prize or donation made to the losers’ charities. Both games tonight were won by the same player; the only thing either of her opponents won was $500 on the Instant Cash. Which means that, unless something was awarded to the third player unbeknownst to us, that third player earned exactly nothing for her charity. Personally, I find this incredibly short-sighted and inconsiderate – and if Fremantle is willing to stiff someone’s charity if they don’t play well, I shudder to think what happens if someone does lose without spending their Temptation Dollars on the aforementioned shlock.
One final note – at various portions of the show, the home viewers are invited to visit a website where they can purchase merchandise. This, in and of itself, would not be so egregious – if the merchandise they were selling was at least of the same type of stuff offered on the show, and not the same blu-blocker sunglasses and cleaning products you could find at Target. They got this right on the pilot; I have no idea why they didn’t continue this idea on the real show.
As for the host, Rossi Moreale, I’ve heard people comment both positively and negatively about him. Me? I really can’t separate him from any other 20-something who’s been plopped onto a show to pretty it up over the last few years. He didn’t screw anything up, but there’s nothing about him that I would consider endearing.
Here’s how the scores work out.
Gameplay: 1 out of 3. I’d give it a 1 1/2, but I don’t give out fractions. Could’ve been a 3 out of 3 if they tweaked it a bit; as it stands currently, there’s just way too much going on.
Host: 2 out of 3. This one would also be a 1 1/2, so I’ll round up for this one. Thing is, I don’t expect the format to change, but Rossi should improve over time.
Presentation: 1 out of 2. The set is nice, but the music is putrid.
Execution: 0 out of 2. They had a perfectly good format in the Australian version; I have no idea why they had to screw it up, even if executives were demanded it be dumbed down. Plus, their mishandling of the charities leaves me worried about how they’ll handle the losing contestants on regular shows.
Total score is 4 out of 10. One can only hope that Crosswords, the other new show premiering this month, is any better than this mutation.
(* – Alice Conkwright was a contestant who won the lot on the 1985 syndicated version of the show, most notable for not buying a single Instant Bargain during her reign.)