Saturday, August 16, 2014

Television Review: The Chase

Television reality and game shows... many of them are following the same path. Just about anything and everything I see on television within this genre is as predictable as it has ever been. This, my friends, is very unfortunate. Every singing competition or just about anything that requires you to vote is almost pointless, because you are almost positive that production alters it anyway in order to shift things into their favor. While American Idol improved slightly by making things a little less predictable, it did not help the show any. This predictability is hurting America's Got Talent (though it has not lost viewers as a fortunate summer show), bringing Big Brother to a halt, and at this point in time, the evidence is out, people have had enough of reality shows and will not take the time to get lured in to something that does not release a particular purpose.

Game shows are seeing this kind of effect, but only to a degree. The milking of the game show began with the Tom Bergeron version of Hollywood Squares, where celebrities were given the answers and told to bluff here and there. Penn Jillette, who were appear frequently with Teller, would be known for shouting, "YOU FOOL!" when a contestant did not go along with his correct answer. Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader? was injected with these elements as well, as was a show known as Our Little Genius. This particular show, however, did not make it to television, because it was caught red-handed with giving answers away to the children that appeared as contestants. There were other occasions where shows became so complicated or so unprepared that it caused a self-destruction. Million Dollar Money Drop mixed up their facts on one occasions, which caused them to lose the trust of their viewers and they were ousted after a season. Million Second Quiz constantly changed the rules of their game, thus confusing their viewers and not returning.

With this being said, the most successful game shows have come from the original program block of Game Show Network (when they show game shows). The first being a show that has completed three seasons in The American Bible Challenge with Jeff Foxworthy and Kirk Franklin. The second show, one that I find to be quite a thrill, is The Chase. The Chase began as a show in the United Kingdom, but, like many of other successes (or partial successes), moved to the United States and became its own sensation. Into its third season, The Chase has brought promise to the art of the quiz show in the way that only Jeopardy! has been able to follow for quite awhile.

The British version of The Chase is hosted by Bradley Walsh and features several "Chasers" with which the team of contestants have an opportunity to compete. In the American version, Walsh hosted two pilots with British chaser Mark Labbett, known as "The Beast" as one option and Jeopardy! champion Brad Rutter as the other. During the GSN series, Labbett is the chaser is every episode and the series is hosted by Brooke Burns, formerly an actress from Baywatch and host of the game show Dog Eat Dog. The game begins with three contestants, one by one, answering as many questions as possible in a certain amount of time, winning $5,000 for each correct answer. From there, they face The Beast, who keeps his name because he is the consistent, antagonizing target. They have an opportunity to play for what they earned or can take options to play for less money if they want to move a step away from Labbett, or more money if they want to move a step closer. In this qualifying chase, they go head-to-head in answering multiple choice questions. If the contestant reaches the "home" position, they win the right to compete in the final chase. If they lose, they walk away with nothing.

The final chase consists of everyone that made it to "home." This can include one, two, or all of the contestants. If no one makes it "home," Labbett gives one of them the opportunity to play on behalf of the team for a chance to split $15,000. In the final chase, the contestants (or contestant) answer as many questions as they can in two minutes. From there, Labbett does the same. If he gets a question wrong, the contestants (or contestant) can push him back by answering the question correctly. If Labbett beats them within the time limit, the contestant(s) get nothing. If he does not, the earnings are evenly distributed among them (and yes, one contestant winning means one contestant gets everything).

Out of twenty-three episodes, Labbett has won sixteen, making his winning percentage about 70%. Some of the champions include Jay Rhee, who won multiple episodes on Jeopardy! On The Chase, he and his teammate, Steve, won $35,000 each. The Chase also saw an individual record winner for an original Game Show Network program, when Raj won $125,000 on an earlier episode of the program. The third season has three episodes remaining and a decent amount of hope of being renewed for a fourth (if not more) seasons.

I enjoy watching The Chase. At the same time, I feel that this show also has its quirks. I am not the biggest fan of Brooke Burns as the host of a show like this. While I am not sure if getting Dan Patrick on board would have been something this show needed, someone like Mark L. Walberg (of Russian Roulette, Moment of Truth, and Antique Roadshow) could have brought this show a bit of intensity. Burns does, however, create the friction between Labbett and everyone else. This brings me to the fact that Labbett is an excellent choice as a figure of intelligent superiority with which the contestants have to face in each and every episode. Seeing that he has won 70% of his matches, he has also proven to be the right person with which the contestants face. While we love seeing the contestants win, seeing them win on occasion as oppose to every single episode provides more of a reason to watch the show. You want to keep watching for that particular moment when the contestant(s) win. Labbett also follows a trend of antagonizing, razor-tongued British folk that American television feeds on in this particular realm.

The head-to-head match with which the contestants try to make it "home" is a bit of an enigma for me as well, where a lot of modern day elements are brought into the program. I despise when they cut to commercial before they reveal an answer. This mechanism goes as far back as Deal or No Deal and it provides the show with every opportunity to potentially alter the flow of the program. While I hold a bit more trust in this particular show and in Labbett's genius, the sense of paranoia flies through the air regarding this strategy. As I said before, this particular industry is deteriorating in its trust of the viewer.

The Chase has brought promise to the quiz-based show in America and that challenging questions (in the form of what we would find on The Weakest Link, Who Wants to be a Millionaire, and Jeopardy!) can still make for an intriguing game show, especially since ridiculous shows like Who's Still Standing relied more on antics and presentation. Shows like this will really have you playing along! At the moment, it is appearing on Game Show Network on Tuesdays at 8 PM. No need to stick around to watch Id!otest.

Verdict: 9/10

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