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Distracted - February 22

After the Super Bowl, I stuck around with a friend, and after Millionaire, Match Game and some video games, I was treated to an episode of "Distraction." After seeing Jimmy Carr's standup act on Conan O'Brien's show, I had heard about the show from various friends and acquaintances. After the episode finished with the champion taking home a Vespa scooter, a computer and a ruined Sony Vega TV, I used the drive home to reflect on it.

I was disappointed just a little bit, and not at all surprised. I'll now spend the rest of the column explaining it.

The disappointment doesn't land on Jimmy Carr; he's easily the best part of the show. Perhaps that's the problem. The game is almost too basic, and it doesn't work here. We have rounds of questions, contestants being abused and the final round where the prizes are destroyed. The rest of the half hour is filled up with commercials. Round one is a minute and a half, round two is two more minutes, and round three the fastest of all. The bonus game is another short affair. By the time I'm getting into the game, it's over, and I'm left wanting more.

Second is the look of the show. I don't know who it was, but someone watched an episode of "Remote Control" and decided that every game show set would either look like the Fortress of Solitude (Millionaire, Twenty-one, Weakest Link) or the basement of my grandmother's house. A brick wall should be load bearing, not a set piece. For that matter, there aren't any scoreboards or flashing lights anywhere to be seen. The score is flashed briefly on a flatscreen for a few seconds, and then it's on to the next round. Are game shows becoming so self-conscious now that the shows are going out of their way to NOT have anything in common with the game shows of old? (T-Note: hey, that sounds like a good topic. Watch for that some week when there's no action on the small screen.) But all of that is how the other shows have been doing it, and Jimmy's opening monologue is funny, even if he does recycle jokes.

I'm not surprised because I know what network picked up the show. A standard buzz-in round would work on Discovery (and why not, they picked up "Cash Cab"?) but to work on cable there has to be something more. And I'll admit that I was mildly amused by the sight of contestants pulling rubber bands over their faces while naming 90s bands, or a wrecking ball destroying a big screen TV. The contestants knew what they were in for and I knew what was going to happen. This is what Comedy Central thinks will draw eyeballs at midnight, and they're probably right. I would rather see "Win Ben Stein's Money" in its tenth season, but apparently that's not going to happen because it was too smart for its own good. So enjoy watching people pee on command to answer questions, or pinning clothespins to their nose, because one was enough for me.

For the record, Travis Eberle did enjoy the round when people affixed rubber bands to their faces. E-mail him at traviseberle@gmail.com.

 

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