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3.... 2.... 1.... COMMERCIAL!
March 29

In the United States, every game show that doesn't air on public television exists because of commercials. It allows the production company to pay the staff, give away prizes, and basically exist as we know it.

On shows with a set format such as Jeopardy! or The Price is Right, commercial breaks come at prescribed intervals. Viewers know when they're coming, and can plan accordingly. On a show such as Millionaire, with a more open-ended format, the break can be placed wherever the director wants, keeping the viewer on his toes, not knowing when he can take off to the kitchen or the bathroom.

One of the most annoying aspects of the commercial break is placing it at a point where the viewer is not expecting one. Fear Factor pioneered this little trick, where just as Joe began the countdown for a stunt attempt, after "three...two...one..." the show would cut away to a commercial. This was picked up by Deal or No Deal, Identity and the new version of American Gladiators. At least Millionaire would wait until an answer was picked before Meredith would tell us that the answer was coming after the break. Some killjoys would duck away to Wikipedia and spoil the reveal.

NBC's new entry "Minute to Win It" is very guilty of this sin. The stunt to be played is explained, the contestant is set, the clock on the stage floor is filling up...and we get the animated logo thing and cut to commercial.

The show has a set amount of commercial time per hour, and I'm sure there are people paid a great deal of money to figure out where exactly that time is to go within the hour of content. The problem is that doing this sort of "we're almost ready to start the game...but NO, watch an ad for NBC's coming primetime lineup!" is going to irritate viewers who will either flip over to The Amazing Race or something else, and not stick around to see if the current Prefabricated Contestant Stereotype will stick a playing card into a watermelon half.

Note to producers: your audience is fickle and smart. If they believe they're being toyed with, they'll turn on you. Continuing to make the same mistake over and over again is only going to make things worse. Minute's ratings are already not great. Whether that is due to the nature of the program and how it feels like every other current primetime game show, or whether the viewers don't like the herky-jerky nature of the commercial stops remains to be seen.

Travis Eberle is unavailable right now; why don't you listen to a few words from Game Show News Net while you wait. Then send him an e-mail at traviseberle@gmail.com.