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It's a Big Deal - March 1

While listening to the overnight guy on Seattle's KIRO-AM 710, the topic turned to game shows. The host for that shift has been on quite a few different game shows, including a loss on "Jeopardy!" and five wins on The Challengers. The rest of the hour is just a blur, but one comment by the host stuck in my head. He said that "Deal or No Deal" had set back television by at least ten years. This got me to thinking if that's true or not. It's time to break this down.

"Deal or No Deal" is by no means a hard game to play or watch. Host Howie Mandel starts the show by saying that there aren't any trivia questions or insane stunts, all you need is a little luck and a great sense of timing. So it's not "Jeopardy!" or "Millionaire," but that's OK. For me, it's all about the watching. I'm resigned to the fact that I most likely won't ever get on a TV game show, so I only get to play vicariously. On a show like "Jeopardy!" or "Millionaire," I can call out the answers. On "Deal or No Deal," I can imagine how much I would want to take away, whether I would push the button or not. It boils down to being fun to watch. And if it means that I get an hour of television that I enjoy, where's the bad? It holds a place that would be taken up by a 'reality' potboiler or an unfunny sitcom. I'm happy.

So, clearly I enjoy the show, and 10 million people a night did too. The second issue at hand is whether TV shows should be held up on a pedestal. I don't think so. Television has always been about entertaining the masses. That's why shows like "Double Dare" and "History IQ" had short runs, and "Wheel of Fortune" and "The Price is Right" are at the top of the heap. Again, it's not a judgment, it is what it is.

Anyone who says that television should be highbrow, educational and informative is just missing the point. For years, situation comedies have given us a chance to laugh at things we never would laugh at ourselves. Only on TV could a sixteen year old boy wreck the family car, promise he'll be more careful in the future, and by the next week, it's as if nothing had ever happened. "Deal or No Deal" is similar. When else will you ever get a chance to choose between a sure thing of $359,000, or one of $25, $500,000, and $750,000? Unless you're offered a bribe for your silence, probably never. It's not real life. It's not supposed to be real life. I'm not surrounded by twenty-six pretty and perky models whenever I decide to cook dinner or eat out? Hell, I probably don't even know 26 women all told, family included. But for an hour, I can escape into their world, where a banker offers bundles of money just to stop a game. Let that sink in: the player is being offered for doing nothing other than randomly picking the 'correct' numbers. It sounds dumb, and it is. Even so, it's still very compelling.

Earlier this week had one of the greatest contestants in game show history in Peter Montesanti, the man who dealt to win $359,000. He was a contestant coordinator's dream: excited, outgoing, and happy to be there without being obnoxious. I wanted him to take the banker for all he was worth, and he did. When Howie opened the case revealing $25, I was happy, not just that the contestant made the right decision, but that the entire game was played as well as can be.

Watch the show. You won't learn about African capitals or neurology, but you'll have a rollicking good time. You can thank me later.

Travis Eberle is using all of this to hide the fact that he just likes watching 26 beautiful women carrying a large amount of money. E-mail him at traviseberle@gmail.com.

 

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