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with Chris Wolvie
From Network to Basic Cable in One Failed Ep
February 23
From the producers of "The Weakest Link" comes the most anticipated show of the year, where two complete strangers get the chance to win more money than on any other game show in the world, just by completing lists! There is no limit to how rich you can get! America, it's time to play...

AIR DATES: November 1, 2006 ("Rich"); June 3, 2009 to August 15, 2009 ("Money")
CREATOR: Jim Cannon, Andy Culpin, Sam Pollard & David Young ("12 Yard")
HOST: Eamonn Holmes ("Rich"); Fred Roggin ("Money")
WATCH IT AT: YouTube ("Money"; "Rich" episode not found)

Ever since "Who Wants To Be a Millionaire?" made Disney/ABC a piss-load of money around the turn of the century, the other networks have been scrambling to come up with their OWN "big money" primetime game shows. And, while some were more successful that others ("Deal or No Deal" for NBC and multiple reality shows on CBS), FOX had its own unique problems with the concept. Suffice it to say I'll be doing MANY more of these columns based on FOX primetime games shows in the future. For now, though, I want to focus on one VERY infamous example: "The Rich List". Oh, the concept was a decent one: two strangers form a team and must face ANOTHER team of strangers to make lists to fit various topics; doing so repeatedly earns them the chance to make a potentially infinite amount of money in the bonus round. It was hyped to heck in September and October and, when it finally premiered, was trashed in the ratings to "Lost" and "Criminal Minds" (and, I'm guessing, whatever NBC was airing as well). It was quickly (and not at all quietly) cancelled by FOX...but DID manage to get revived for GSN's English version of "Sabado Gigante", renamed "The Money List". Still, it was the first primetime game show of the 21st Century to be shelved after just ONE EPISODE! And, given that I saw said ep and wasn't too impressed by it, I can understand why.

The first episode starts with two teams of two who are complete strangers to each other (they literally first meet in front of the host before the game begins). They are placed in large isolation booths that the host can turn the sound off and on in at whim. The host then gives both teams a subject and asks them how many they can list that fit the subject. One team (determined by coin toss) starts the bidding while the other team's booth is muted (so the team can discuss possible answers without being heard). When a team gives a number they say they can list, their booth is muted and the other's is turned on. The other team is told the "bid" and can either bid higher or "dare" the other team. It goes back and forth until one team dares the other...or one team bids the maximum number of answers for the list. The dared team then makes the list. If they make even one mistake, the opposing team wins the list. If they list all they said they would, they win the list. The host them completes the entire list for the folks at home (as "an unfinished list is unfinished business"). The bidding on the second list is started by the team who didn't start the first one.

If a team wins two lists, they win the game and advance to the bonus round, where they can actually earn money. If both teams each win a list, a tie-breaker is played. Both booths are un-muted as the host gives a final subject. Starting with the team that started the first list, each team gives an answer. The tie-breaker continues until one team gives a right answer while the other team does not. The one with the right answer advances to the bonus round.

The champions are faced with another list of at least 15 correct answers. No need to bid this time; the team just gives answers they feel fit the list. For every three right answers, the team earns money on a ladder format ("Rich" was $10,000; $25,000; $75,000; $150,000 and $250,000 while "Money" was $5000; $10,000; $15,000; $25,000 and $50,000). The team is given an option to quit with the money earned or risk it to try to give three more right answers. One wrong answer forfeits all money earned.

The champions then play another game against a newly-formed team of strangers. As long as the champions remain champions, they can keep playing the bonus game for an infinite amount of money.

So the idea of complete strangers meeting and immediately being thrown into a game is interesting. I have to wonder if the teams on "GO" were the same way. It's hard to trust someone you just met, especially with potential millions at stake. Both teammates may THINK they know more about a subject than the other...and probably don't want to be shown up by their partner. So, yeah, interesting psych set-up there.

And the set was your typical "big, flamboyant set for big, flamboyant money" set FOX seemed to use with fair frequency. Oh, nothing AGAINST it, mind; when you're up against stiff competition, you HAVE to stand out. And, like it or not, the set DOES stand out.

I didn't quite dig the whole "isolation booth" deal. Oh, I understand WHY; as I said, its so the teams can say their lists out loud without the other team hearing them. But this ALSO slowed the game down considerably. While it's smart to MAKE your list before GIVING it, it's not so smart to BROADCAST teams making the lists. PLUS, while the teams couldn't hear each other, they could still SEE each other...and you don't need to be a genius at reading lips to figure out what they say. (That's why you see people covering their mouths in "Money List"; they figured it out.) So, apparently, "cheating" wasn't taboo on this show.

While it's cool to be dramatic about whether each item given is "on the list" or not, it seems a little excessive when you KNOW there's no money involved yet. It was made clear from the start that teams earn NO money in the main game and that only champions can earn money in the bonus round. Yeah, "Will they go on to try to win millions on this answer?" is NOT as dramatic as "Will they win millions on this answer?".

And SPEAKING of that, they said on the promos that champs could win millions upon millions. And, yet, the top prize in the bonus round was...a QUARTER of a million?! That means that the champs would have to a) win four games straight and b) get 15 right answers in each bonus game JUST to win ONE million! Did FOX not know that there was already a game where answering JUST 15 questions makes one a millionaire?! And the lists in the bonus games were no laughing matter; in the one episode, the two "Rich List"s given were "Best Picture Oscar winners" and "Animated Disney Films theatrically released including Pixar". If you a) don't watch the Oscars regularly and b) don't have kids or (like me) are a kid at heart, this would be hard AF. It's amazing the one team who won both games managed to win $175,000 in those two bonus rounds. This was the opposite of the problem with the "Twenty-One" revival years before; whereas "Twenty-One" gave away too much money too easily, "The Rich List" made it too HARD to win too LITTLE money for the effort.

The concept itself seemed worthy enough for GSN to revive it with much less money involved. And the show DID have success in Europe and Oceania (it's still airing new eps in Germany, Spain, New Zealand AND the UK). But, if GSN couldn't keep it alive, it's proof that the FOX cancellation was what killed this beast in America. And I'm quite surprised that, after this debacle, FOX had the nerve to try again years later with "Million Dollar Money Drop". But that is a GGB story for another time. Let Europe and NZ have this; the show was (literally) "Lost" to us in the US.

NEXT TIME: The "Newlywed Game"...for kids?!

Chris Wolvie LIKES seeing business get unfinished.
Follow him on Twitter @ChrisWolvie and e-mail him at