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It's For You
May 25

It's been a long time coming, but MTV actually has a really good game show on the air. (Admittedly, the show got shunted to Fridays at 10, but it's still good.) If you haven't seen "The Phone" yet, make sure you do.

The short form is that "The Phone" is what would happen if an action movie (like a Bond film or part of the Die Hard series) was made into a game show. Two mixed doubles teams of young people undertake various missions as posed by The Operator. These missions are tied together with a story arc, such as environmentalists trying to stop a corporation from poisoning a local lake, or a mafia hit. Completing missions is worth money, from $5,000 for the first up to a possible $20,000 for the last. The team that wins the second mission guarantees that they will have $10,000 and they escape elimination.

The missions are neat. Like I mentioned, they're the stuff of action movies. Early stuff involves solving the mystery, like finding a car in an impound lot, finding a gambling parlor in a Chinatown district, or finding a clue on a fishing boat in Seattle. The fourth task is always one where one person alone tackles it and it usually plays on a fear such as heights, snakes or claustrophobia. But they're still visually compelling.

After the four tasks are complete (and so far, the teams have always finished the fourth task to catch the bad guy), the teams are then given a quiz on everything that has happened that day. Each question has three choices, and the first person to answer three right wins the game and all the money.

But the poor shlub who didn't win shouldn't lose hope! The Operator tells the winner that he or she has the option to share the prize money equally with his or her partner, and the show ends either with the team happily walking into the sunset, or with the loser sobbing and the winner leaving the final arena.

There's no question: the show is beautiful. The missions look great, and the scenic backdrops are wonderful. It really feels like you're watching a movie unfold. Unfortunately, three things drag the show down.

First is The Operator. Heard only through the titular phone, the mysterious host fails at whatever he's trying to do. He isn't quite malicious, and he certainly isn't your standard happy-go-lucky host either. The fact that The Operator doesn't really make the role his own weakens his presence.

The game, however, comes to a screeching halt with the final quiz. It seems more than a bit silly to have up to $50,000 hinge on what color car blew up at the start of the day. But it does. The winner isn't necessarily the one who did more of the tasks during the day, but whoever remembers more bits of information.

But at least that's an ending. By extending the process a step farther, the ending is ruined. Either you get the field of daisies ending where everyone is happy because the money is split, or the show ends on a total downer because the winner decided to keep the money. If the show just ended after the final mission, or had a fifth bonus mission to undertake, it would have made the program that much more interesting.

That said, "The Phone" is still a good solid game that is worth your time for an hour. Make sure to watch the last episode.

Remember. It's on a Friday.

Travis Eberle wants to play a game with you, but instead of calling his phone, just shoot him over an e-mail to