Tuesday, September 11, 2007

I'm tempted

I sure hope a lot of people give in to “Temptation.”

A new game show debuted this week, and for game show geeks like me, it rekindles the hopes and dreams we’ve harbored for years, a game show renaissance.

Temptation is a new syndicated game being offered this fall. It’s the first new syndicated game show offering in five years. Five years! That’s criminal.

Thanks to the steady ratings of “Wheel of Fortune” and “Jeopardy!” we have had a steady diet of games for more than two decades. But there was a time when stations carried several syndicated games instead of 10 different talk shows and courtroom fiascos. I get the appeal of a show like “Judge Judy,” but do we need eight different judges trying to sell their unique personality in a small claims court setting? The answer is no.

But with the loss of daytime network game shows in the past 15-20 years, save for “The Price is Right,” syndicated games have gone by the wayside, too. A few of the big money prime time shows have been legitimate games, but too many of them are game operas, such as “Survivor.” My favorite game in prime time these days is “1 vs. 100.”

Sure, we’ve had a few successful syndicated offerings in recent years. The last version of “Hollywood Squares” lasted six years, and “Family Feud” is starting its ninth season in its latest incarnation, despite changing hosts twice. And “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” has done something “Weakest Link” didn’t and “Deal or no Deal” probably won’t in syndication, maintain its appeal to the core audience when offered as a weekday game.

Temptation is not an illogical attempt at generating game show magic in the United States. The show is an update of “Sale of the Century,” a time-honored format that had a successful run in the 1980s on NBC’s daytime schedule.

Temptation has lots of variations from the 1980s version, but it follows the basic premise. It has a lot of flaws, but despite them, I am rooting for the show, shockingly.

Let’s see how many flaws I can list off the top of my head:
• The host is less than spectacular.
• The show is cheap compared to its predecessor.
• The show doubles as a shopping network.

Those are my biggest gripes. I’m not impressed by the announcer or the theme music, and the show’s jargon annoys me, but overall I’m not highly disappointed.

The host is Rossi Morreale, a guy I’ve never heard of. He has carved out a niche as host of various cable channel offerings, is relatively young and is easy on the eyes, I’m sure most women would say. He has a bit of a southern accent, and despite the various cable shows on his resume, he isn’t a very polished emcee. He’ll probably never win me over as a host, and I’m not sure why he was the best choice out there, but I’ll look past that.

I’m also unsure why a few game shows I’ve seen over the past several years have offered less in prize money than their predecessors. (Donny Osmond's "Pyramid" comes to mind.) It makes no sense to me. A good game is a good game, but there’s a reason why prime time games usually have big money payoffs, it makes them more exciting. When you’re playing for $10,000 in 1975, that’s exciting. When you’re playing for $10,000 in this day and age, it’s a nice chunk of change, but not nearly as significant, and therefore not as exciting.

Temptation offers some nice prizes, but overall the payoff to a winner isn’t as exciting as it was in the 1980s, and I think that hurts the show a bit. Maybe not a lot, but it doesn’t help, I am certain.

I’m not really annoyed by it, but Temptation offers a couple of deals on products that you can order either online or by phone during each show. I’m not sure if the products they’re offering are bargains, but they sell the idea they are. They’re offered just before a commercial, so they’re not intrusive, although I’m not sure if they’re tied to prizes offered in the game. (I haven’t watched the show that closely yet, I’ve watched it while doing other things.) While the home shopping aspect is a bit tacky, it’s not nauseating, thankfully.

The announcer is some woman I don’t remember even though she had her own talk show in the 1990s, evidently, and the theme music isn’t memorable. While those are minor points, they don’t sell the idea that this is a legitimate game show.

The single most annoying thing about the show is that Rossi refers to each players score as “Temptation dollars” almost every time he mentions the score. That irritates me greatly, and I know I’m not the only one.

The game has a few different ways for players to earn Temptation dollars. The old Sale of the Century was a straight-forward quiz for the most part. The new show also offers instant bargains to the player in the lead, and those are fun to watch. That's the temptation. Do you want to risk a portion of your lead for a prize that is yours to keep?

The bonus round offers a chance for the winner to earn more Temptation dollars. Those dollars can be used to buy a bonus prize, or banked toward a future prize, much like the original bonus round of the old game. If the champion buys a prize, s/he leaves the show. If the champion banks the Temptation dollars, s/he comes back to defend her/his title in an attempt to win more Temptation dollars, risking the chance to win any major prize by being defeated the next day. Depending upon how good a champion is at answering questions that seem to lean toward pop culture topics, the top prize can be obtained in about five days. The top prize is a car, and its Temptation price is more than you could earn in one day, but a pop culture genius might pull it off in as few as three days.

I like that the show has the possibility of returning champions, that makes the show more compelling to watch on a daily basis. But Temptation also follows a game show trend of recent years, contestants aren’t identified by last name, and there’s little time spent getting to know anything about them. It’s harder to connect with contestants you’re watching when they’re basically anonymous and interchangeable.

Temptation is being carried on most MyNetworkTV affiliates, if not all of them, so it is being offered in much of the country this season. It could use many tweaks, but it has promise. If Family Feud has made it for the past eight years, I have to think Temptation has a chance to succeed. I certainly hope it will.

Coming in the next couple of weeks, my review of another new game show offering that debuted this week, but I haven’t had a chance to see, “Merv Griffin’s Crosswords.”

1 comment:

Tequila Mockingbird said...

i have a better idea for a game show: "who want's to marry robert blake"... we can substitute phil spector once he kills off the current one.
there are freakshows out there so desperate to be on TV, they will do anything.
i know i would watch it...