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Who You Gonna Call? - June 7

If it weren't for streaming video and a broadband connection, I would be missing out on one of the most creative, exciting and intelligent game shows in all of the land. Michigan's wkar.org puts on the excellent high school quiz show QuizBusters, hosted by Bill Cullen biggest fan, Matt Ottinger. (So you know the guy can't be all bad...)

The high school quiz show seems to be a lost art. Our 'local' quiz out of Portland is a thinly-veiled copy of Jeopardy, except with two teams of four answering the questions. There are others that are in fact much worse, but that's not why we're here. QuizBusters sets the bar so high that it's not worth mentioning them. Two teams show up each week on QuizBusters to try and move up through a single elimination format, and where 32 teams enter, only one team will emerge victorious with a college scholarship for each contestant.

The game is solid: a long-ish toss-up question is asked to the teams, and getting the ten point toss-ups is key to getting big scores. The winner of a toss-up question can earn 40 points more by answering three bonus questions on a different topic. Each one is worth 10, and 10 bonus points are awarded for a category sweep. So far, so generic, in fact that's almost a carbon copy of the NAQT "Quiz Bowl" format. Where lesser shows fear to go on, QuizBusters goes over the top. The game starts with ten quick questions, and ends with a sixty-second round of rapid fire questions to determine the winner. In between is a pair of Pop Quiz rounds; each contestant gets to play by themselves against someone from the other team. It is these extra games where QuizBusters shines against the other 'high school quiz bowl' shows that are floating around.

It also helps matters that one bonus packet in each round is either based on an audio snippet or a visual prompt. The different rounds help to keep things more interesting, though the varying material presented does that anyway.

While the game play is solid, the presentation shows that the people that put on QuizBusters know what they're doing, and they want to put on the best show possible. The set is full of flash that reminds me of the good old days of game shows that had sets that looked like actual game show sets. The music is very original, and it's not anything you'd hear on the air today. Other game shows could do themselves a favor to watch QuizBusters and take note. Final respect should be paid to host Matt Ottinger. He's so good at what he does that he makes several professional hosts look bad by comparison. (It must be watching Bill Cullen all those years.) He sounds and looks like he knows what he's doing, and he's also a smart guy- he was one of the few people to compete against Ken Jennings and kept the game close going into Final Jeopardy.

If you're not in the Michigan area, go to www.wkar.org and download the most recent episodes. In an era where we have every network trying to duplicate the most recent big idea from one network or another, QuizBusters is a refreshing change of pace, plus you get to see some really smart students playing a game they truly enjoy. You won't regret it.

Travis Eberle played on the Academic Bowl team for Kentwood High School in 1997. Send him a ten-point starter at traviseberle@gmail.com.

 

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