By the end of the week, one of these
idiots will be crowned the Grand Savant, earning an awesome prize! Who
will it be? Damned if I know...'cause I'm "The Brain" and this is (day
1/2/3/4/the 5th and final day) of...
SHOW: IDIOT SAVANTS
AIR DATES: December 9, 1996 to April 25, 1997
CREATOR: Michael Dugan and Chris Kreski; MTV Productions
HOST: Greg Fitzsimmons (with Marc Price as "The Brain")
WATCH IT HERE: YouTube (Monday
We end our look into the MTV/VH1 game shows that led to the end of video
music channels as we know it with, perhaps, the most decorated of them
all. Yes, "Idiot Savants" was the only one of the shows presented that
won a CableACE award for "Best Game Show, Special or Series" in 1997. Of
course, the show was cancelled by then but, hey, still quite the kudos.
Except, the only two other winners were "Legend of the Hidden Temple"
and a show that only lasted four episodes on Comedy Central. But, hey,
c'mon, it's an ACE award! Which...were never presented again after '97
since cable shows were starting to make the Emmys. OK, so there's a
little tarnish on the award. And, to be honest, it's a little surprising
that they DID win because...well, it was a MESS! The game, the questions
asked, the point system, the fact that the same contestants were there
all week. What made MTV even THINK that this could hold the attention
the average 18-to-35-year-old in the late 90s, when the internet was
JUST starting to emerge from its underground roots? Oh, I thought it was
pretty interesting back then. But, hindsight being 20/20, it WAS a
cluster@#$% of a show.
HOW WAS IT PLAYED?
Four contestants played an entire week of shows, like with "Jackpot!" or
"Go". Each contestant has a "Savant Category", a particular pop-culture
subject they say they are an expert of (like the first round of
"Masterminds" or the bonus rounds of "ESPN's 2-Minute Drill"). Their
scores each day accumulate until the final day where the one with the
most points wins the grand prize for the week.
MONDAY THROUGH THURSDAY
On Monday's show, a random contestant was given the first choice of
eight categories. A toss-up question was asked with no penalty for a
wrong answer. A right answer earned the contestant 100 points and first
crack at a "bonus" question worth 200 points (which the other
contestants can answer if the first one missed it). Answering the
200-point question right gave the contestant the option to answer a
third question (the "Big Gamble" question) in the category for +/- 300
points (which, again, other contestants can try for if missed). The
contestant can choose not to play the Big Gamble and choose another
category. If no one gets ANY question right, the contestant who got the
last question right chooses another category. When time expires on the
round, the contestant with the lowest total is declared "The Dunce" for
the day...but does not stop playing.
With The Dunce sitting in a corner, the other contestants play a round
similar to Round 1 but with double the points (200 for the initial
question, 400 for the bonus, +/-600 for the "Big Gamble"). "The Brain"
also chose the categories, not the contestants. If, at any time, none of
the contestants could answer a question right, The Dunce was given an
opportunity to answer it, gaining the points for their week-long
cumulative score. When time expires, the contestant with the lowest
score is done for the day.
ROUND 3: BRAINSTORM ROUND
A series of rapid-fire questions are asked for 60 seconds (45 in earlier
shows) for +/-200 points apiece under a similar category. The one with
the most points at the end wins the day and goes to the bonus round.
(Ties would be broken with one last Brainstorm question.)
BONUS ROUND (GRAND SAVANT ROUND)
Placed in the "Cylinder of Shush", the contestant are asked 60 seconds
of questions on their Savant Category. For each one they get right, 200
points are added to their cumulative score. If they get ten right in the
time alloted, they win a prize.
On Tuesday through Friday, The Dunce of the previous day picks the first
category of Round 1.
ROUNDS 1 & 2
The cumulative scores of the contestants over the last four days are
shown and the points on Friday are added to those. Rounds 1 & 2 are
played exactly like Monday through Friday, except points for each round
are doubled (200, 400, +/-600 for Round 1; 400, 800 and +/-1200 for
Round 2). There is no Dunce this time; the player with the least number
of cumulative points after each round is eliminated from further play.
There is also no Brainstorm Round.
BONUS ROUND (DOUBLE GRAND SAVANT ROUND).
The trailing player goes through the entire 60 seconds answering
questions from their Savant Category for 1000 points apiece. If they
fail to surpass the leader, the game ends then and there. Otherwise, the
other contestant has 60 seconds to answer enough questions to surpass.
Whoever has more points wins the week and a large prize, like a trip or
For an MTV show, they had some PRETTY smart contestants. They could
answer questions about old books and art as easily as ones about rock
stars or hit movies. And their Savant Categories ran the gamut from
"Medieval England" to "Caddyshack"! These weren't kids who
watched a lot of TV or listened to a lot of hard rock; they READ!
One of the coolest things about the show were the buzzer noises. No,
really. Every day and every round, each buzzer was given a new noise.
Sometimes it was a cartoon sound effect, sometimes it was a scream...and
sometimes it's just a man saying "buzzer" or "yo, host" ot "over here!"
Of course, in the later weeks, the sounds during the Brainstorm were
defaulted to one saying "Idiot!" and the other saying "Savant!" but...at
least it was interesting wondering what sound each one will make.
Having a live band doing the theme song was a nice touch...and it was a
bit better that, unlike "Turn It Up!", they STUCK to the theme and
WHAT DIDN'T WORK?
So...where to start? Greg Fitzsimmons was WAY too deadpan to be a proper
host. He was acting like his intelligence was somewhere between the
contestants and the people who did the skits for some of the categories.
He seemed to go into each show like, "OK, let's get this over with."
Which brings me to said "skits". They worked for "Remote Control" but
not here. Seemed like they were just there because the writers wanted
screen time. They weren't funny like Cousin Flip or Stickpin Quinn on
RC. And, as such, none of them were heard from again afterwards.
The scoring was confusing unless you watched five-days-a-week for
several weeks, the categories seemd to drift all over the map (not in a
good "Jeopardy!" way, either), the set looked a bit haphazard (what was
the DEAL with the bottles and instruments on the host's podium? Were
they WAITING for Greg to knock 'em over?!), The Brain looked stupid and
acted the same way...not something a young adult would keep watching.
Hence the cancellation, I'm sure.
WOULD IT WORK TODAY?
Nah. Even kids are into Jeopardy! now so, without a channel with a
specific audience in mind, there's no place for this. Oh, I liked
it. And, as stated, it was good enough to win an award...but these days,
it would be as much a novelty as it apparently was back then. So, once
more into the "nice try" bin. Oh, and kudos for getting Stone Cold Steve
Austin to stop by at the peak of his career for one week. :)
NEXT TIME: You
know the name...but do NOT expect any "gak" in this version...
Chris Wolvie is an excellent game show reviewer...yeah, definitely,
definitely an excellent game show reviewer.
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