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Ready to Duel
December 21

Two things have coincided to bring game show and reality show fans lots of good stuff in the coming months: the writer's strike and the period after November sweeps. Out of those stars aligning, we get Duel.

Like Millionaire and Deal or No Deal before it, Duel is presented in a six night stretch. Contestants compete in a series of knockout-trivia quizzes hoping to be on the "Top Four" leaderboard on Sunday night, where the eventual winner will collect a cash jackpot.

Let's get the complaints out of the way. Duel is the same as many other shows: questions have four answers to choose from, think music fills the time, and the obvious stretching of Mike Greenberg eats up more show clock. When he asks the contestant "What do you think your opponent did? Do you think he covered all four answers?" it's a waste of time since the decision is done and locked in.

The winner of the last Duel chooses the next challenger from three options out of the 24-player gallery. Each of the randomly selected options is condensed to a blurb: players have been an "internet censor," an "ATM tech," a student, or an attorney. That's not so bad, but the trash talk that happens after the choosing feels forced for effect, and it doesn't work.

The game is simple enough, but it seems overdone. Players have ten chips worth $5,000 each. The questions come up, and to stay in the game, players have to cover the right answer. Fail to do that and the game is over. Twice during the game players can "press" their player to answer within seven seconds, but a screen blocks the answer spots on either side. I admit that there's some strategy here, and being able to read the opposition is important, but if the right answer isn't covered, all of that goes away.

As with several of the shows as of late, there are lots of little things to dislike: Mike reminding us every segment that we're watching Duel on ABC; that money remaining on the loser's side after a loss doesn't go into the cash jackpot, that three duels shouldn't take ninety minutes, even if this is the premiere. But at the same time, it's a solid quiz with interesting questions, and enough double think to satisfy people who can't play along with the questions. The set looks neat, as players enter the floating arena on a moving platform, and the think music is guitar infused with plenty of reverb. It's not something I'd watch as a standalone game, but as a tournament with more than a million dollars on the line, it's a fine diversion.

Travis Eberle challenges you to e-mails at dawn, ten paces, at