Stop the Drop
Over Christmas week,
Fox network aired an imported version of England's "Million Pound Drop",
changing a few things, but the main idea was still there: start with a
million dollars in $20,000 chunks, bet it all on seven questions,
whatever is left after the seventh is for the team to take home.
The problems with the show started when it was apparent that we were
going to meet just one new couple per show, and the episode would be
stretched as far as necessary for that one game. It didn't help matters
that the contestants chosen to play the game were ones that I wanted to
strangle, more often than not. The pair would argue over things like
which answer was right, how much money to place where, and then we had
to wait several minutes to see what would drop.
That's bad enough, and the show would have quietly moved to the dustbin
of American television history, but one incident has caused the show to
remain in the public forebrain. On the VERY FIRST NIGHT, a couple of
players were asked “which of these was invented first?” Since Gabe Okoye
and Brittany Mayti had made it to the next round of play, there were
three answers instead of four: Apple Macintosh, Sony Walkman, and
Post-it Notes. Our pair parked $800,000 on Post-it Notes, and were
inconsolable as the vast portion of their fortune dropped down the hole.
Gabe and Brittany still lost anyway (you must correctly answer all seven
questions to win any money, from twenty grand on up).
The day after the episode aired, there was a storm brewing: Post-it
Notes were sold in 1977 in various test markets, but the Sony Walkman
was sold in 1979. Gabe and Brittany were correct. There is now the issue
of what to do: start the game over? Allow the team to play on as if they
had held on to the $800,000? Some of the bubbleheads at Access Hollywood
said that the couple should be given the eight hundred grand wad because
“it was too close.”
I find that last bit laughable, but here's the rub: Gabe and Brittany
had to play the rest of the game with four “chips” instead of the forty
that they'd have if they hadn't been wronged. If given the chance, I
think they should get to play again.
The problem is that I think the show as is remains unsalvageable. The
questions aren't that interesting. The couples are instantly grating and
make me want to stab out my eyes, not root them on to victory or share
their sorrow in defeat. The game is constructed so that teams are having
a chance to win an ever-decreasing prize, as opposed to winning bigger
prizes along the way to a huge jackpot. It seems to adhere to all of the
conventions of game shows that have been established by Deal or No Deal
and its ilk, rather than trying something to be different and stand out
from a crowd that looks all alike.
The whole thing becomes even more wacky when we find out that Gabe and
Brittany are--wait for it!--out of work actors! We're now casting
contestants for game shows not because they can play the game
competently and that they can provide the home audience with a rooting
interest. Oh no, we're picking actors from the local talent agency
because they can take direction well. Gabe and Brittany will slurp up
any camera time that Good Morning America et al will give them, because
it gets their name out there for casting directors to see.
The really sad thing about this is that I remember the days when a game
like this wouldn't make it to air. Problems would have been ironed out
before the show got a spot on the schedule. Now, any ol' game show with
six zeroes in the top prize gets on the air, and if there's a problem
you just change up the rules to make it work. I am now to the point
where I can zip through an episode of 1 vs. 100, Minute to Win It, or
Money Drop in about ten minutes and not lose any actual content. I hope
that the pendulum swings back the other way, and soon.
Travis Eberle can be reached at