Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Television Review: Who's Still Standing

In this day and age, game shows have been ruled by the contestants that they choose and not the play of the game in general. It seems like the producers feel that in order for a game show to succeed, it needs to have contestants that can build excitement or create some form of emotion. Simply put, the contestant needs to either act like they overdid it on drinking coffee or they need to have some kind of story that's going to pull on the viewers heartstrings. The latter seems to hold more true for reality talent competitions, the former is generally something that a game show looks for. We know that this is not true, because Jeopardy!, which along with Wheel Of Fortune, is the best game show block on television. Jeopardy! is a show in which the game play and those who play the game well are the ones who stick out. Who's Still Standing, a new game show that originated overseas, has been brought over to America. It is simply another version of GSN's Russian Roulette, only the rules are different.

Who's Still Standing is a game show that airs on NBC and is hosted by Cash Cab host Ben Bailey. This in itself is a good thing. Several game shows have been casting "has-beens" to perform the role of host, as oppose to hiring professionals to do the job. We have seen Howie Mandel, Bob Saget (though being the host of the original America's Funniest Home Videos could count in his favor), Jeff Foxworthy, Penn Jillette, Kevin Pollack, among others hosting shows when there is so much out there, like Ben Bailey. Bailey has a good sense of humor and a personality that makes him someone you would enjoy hanging out with.

On Who's Still Standing, a contestant has to take down ten "strangers" in one-on-one trivia battles in order to win the grade prize of $1,000,000. They each have twenty seconds to come up with the correct answer. As long as you can come up with a correct answer in twenty seconds, you remain in the game. The battle continues to go back and forth until someone runs out of time on a specific question. In that case, that person would drop through their trapdoor. If this happens to be the contestant, then the stranger wins $10,000. If this happens to be the stranger, then the contestant wins money in their bank that depends on how much the stranger is worth. This amount can range from $1,000 to $20,000. The questions are relatively simple, unlike many other trivia based game shows. Some of the occasions in which someone gets stumped is on ridiculous occasions. For instance, someone couldn't figure out Al Gore made a movie about global warming. The contestant is given two passes for the first five rounds, meaning if they are stumped on an answer, they could force the stranger to answer the question. The stranger has no such help. After five battles, the contestant gains the option to walk away if they wish after each battle. They also gain an extra pass.

There are several faults about the show. The first is the simple holiday theme that is being extended past the holidays. Santa's voice as the narrator (and not even a good Santa at that) has begun to get on my nerves. The commercials also occur during the middle of a battle. When they return, they act like they were just taking a break, and then return to the same position that they were once in. I find that to be really annoying. It makes it feel like the curtain between what we see and what really is happening is thin and dainty. Another fault is how the show allows the time to control the game play. On many game shows, either time boundaries already exist or the contestant returns the next week. On this show, the game play is cramped into the one episode, thus we have come up with the pattern of knowing what's going to happen. That and the fact that the contestants on this show walk away pretty quickly. On the first five episodes, three of them walked away after the fifth question and two walked away after the seventh. In the most recent episode (the December 26th episode), the female contestant mentioned that she couldn't stand it when contestants walked away early and didn't take the risk and continue playing the game. The show takes commercial. When they come back, she begins choking up and saying how $51,000 is a lot of money and that it could help her with a down payment. Then she chooses to walk away. This goes to show me that she is either a hypocrite or she was told what to do. I don't want to think the former, nor do I want to think the latter, but the latter could be a possibility.

On many occasions, the remaining strangers participate in a speed round where they have ten seconds to answer questions. Correct answers add to the jackpot and incorrect answers cause the stranger to drop. The last one standing wins the jackpot. It's also exciting to see Ben Bailey dropping through the trapdoor at the end of each episode. It shows that the host has a personality and is open to having fun. Though Russian Roulette host Mark Walberg did it during the Playboy episode and substitute host Todd Newton did the same when he was subbing.

Who's Still Standing will be airing on Monday nights at 8 PM EDT on NBC for at least the rest of January. The show does have a good amount of potential. While there are many quirks that I have, I am a game show enthusiast. For the ordinary viewer, you will have a good time watching the show. You'll enjoy the comedy element of watching different types of people dropping through trapdoors and playing along with fairly simple questions (which is something new for Ben Bailey, because the questions on Cash Cab were fairly difficult). If you can overlook the faults, you'll enjoy the experience. If you can ignore the clock and the pattern you'll form in your head when you don't ignore the clock, you'll enjoy it as well. It's a good option for a current game show, even though I may be looking for something on the intellectual caliber.

Verdict: 7/10

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