Hello, everyone. I'm Maury Povich. And, tonight, two contestants will
vie for thousands of dollars in the return the most controversial game
show ever. Let's see what happens tonight on...
SHOW: Twenty One (2000)
AIR DATES: January 9 to May 28, 2000
CREATOR: Robert Noah (based upon the original series)
PACKAGER: Fred Silverman Company, Gurin Company, NBC Studios
HOST: Maury Povich
WATCH IT HERE:
Did anyone not growing up in the 50s even REMEMBER "Twenty-one" before
the movie "Quiz Show" brought its controversy to the 90s? The show that
put Jack Barry into hiding for a decade or so, it was a simple game
show: two contestants answer questions to try to get to 21 points. The
DIFFERENCE was that the contestants could be asked the SAME question
because they were in soundproof booths with headsets on to drown out
noise when it wasn't their turn. Hence the controversy. When Charles Van
Doren was doing a Ken Jennings-esque run, it was learned that sponsor
pressure got Barry to feed the answers into the headsets of not just
Doren...but practically EVERYONE that played. It almost ended game shows
as a WHOLE. But I guess seeing Ralph Fiennes acting as a man who was
acting like he knew everything sparked interest in a comeback. And the
"million-dollar game show" craze that started with "Millionaire" made
NBC want to try this before "Weakest Link". Now, they're not to be
blamed for trying to bring it back. What they SHOULD be blamed for is
that they tried to make someone a millionaire in MUCH faster
fashion...and that blew up in their faces.
HOW WAS IT PLAYED?
Two contestants (including a returning champion) are placed in isolation
booths where they can only hear the host and the crowd when the booth
says "ON THE AIR".
With one booth closed to sound, the host gives the challenger a category
and asks them to choice a question between one and eleven points, with
the more difficult questions worth more points. The host then asks the
multiple-choice question and the challenger tries to answer it. Getting
it right adds points to their score. Getting it wrong gives a strike.
Then the challenger's booth is closed and the champion's is open. The
host gives the same category and choice. It is possible for the host to
give the same question to both contestants, as neither knows whether the
other got it right or wrong. The process continues until a) a contestant
reaches 21 points (though the champion always gets a final chance if the
challenger reaches 21 first), b) five rounds were played with whoever
has more points at the end being the winner. If the challenger earns
three strikes, the champion must still play the round and, quite
possibly, strike out as well leaving no winners. Later in the run (as in
second episode), both contestants were given the choice after two
questions to end the game at that point with whoever has more points
being declared the winner. If the game ends in a tie in any case outside
of both players earning three strikes, a tiebreaker buzz-in question is
asked with the first right answer deciding the winner.
One difference between the original and this one is that, like
"Millionaire", each contestant has a "lifeline"...or, in this case, a
"Second Chance" in the form of a friend to help the contestant with a
question. It comes at a price, though; if two people cannot come up with
the right answer, the contestant is given TWO strikes instead of one.
The winner of the game is rewarded based on how many games they've one.
Originally, the first win was worth $100,000, the second $200,000, the
third $300,000 and the fourth $400,000 before going back to $100,000 for
the fifth win. Later in the series, they changed the "chain" to
BONUS ROUND ("PERFECT 21")
The champion of each game plays a bonus game for up to $210,000 more.
The host asks up to six true/false questions, rising in difficulty with
each one. If the champion gets it right, they get one point for the
first question, two more for the second, etc. They can quit after any
right answer to take $10,000 per point but one wrong answer ends the
game and forfeits the money. Answering all six questions right wins the
game and gives the contestant $210,000 for getting 21 points.
The gameplay was quite interesting, I must say. Having never heard how
the original was played (never saw "Quiz Show" and never researched the
game afterwards), the fact that both contestants were unaware of how the
other is doing and could be asked the same question each round was quite
exciting. I can see why "Inquizition" mimicked that "contestant knows
only their own score" format.
The set was serviceable. Small but still having that "big game show"
feel. The larger booths may've been a bit overkill but...other than
that, no complaints.
And I personally thought it was cool that they had a live "light
orchestra" playing the music for the first few eps. Shame they ditched
them for recorded music afterwards.
WHAT DIDN'T WORK?
The main problem I had with the show was that they gave away too much
money for too little effort. I can understand they wanted to
out-"Millionaire" "Millionaire" by having bigger payouts faster...but
part of the appeal of "Millionaire" was that it WAS so hard to win that
million bucks. Here, all a contestant had to do (originally) was win
four games...as in a minimum of EIGHT questions. Sure, the questions
were tough but there was no buildup. People were always aiming for the
10- or 11-point questions if they even felt the LEAST bit
confident...only to strikeout because they didn't know as much as they
thought. And those that DID know? Well, one of the first contestants won
over $1.1 million over four games and bonus rounds if that's any
Maury Povich was NOT the most exciting of hosts. Oh, he tried, but he
doesn't look comfortable when he's not trying to out-Jerry Springer
Jerry Springer. He sounded rather bland when he should have been more
excited for the people taking all of NBC's money. And, when he WAS
excited, it seemed out of place. It was a "Catch-22" for this guy.
And why "strikes"? I'm guessing they wanted to keep the games from
slogging but, with a five-round limit AND the option to end the game
after two rounds, that shouldn't be an issue. They should've just
deducted the points like in the original or, better still, just not did
ANYTHING if the answer is wrong.
And, yeah, the bonus game didn't excite me. They should've just moved
right along to the next game.
WOULD IT WORK TODAY?
No one really asked for this return, even AFTER "Quiz Show" made, I'm
certain. The concept was fine...but you just KNEW there were skeptics
out there wondering if the producers weren't whispering into those
headsets. If they every revive this again, make iso booths that can
block noise WITHOUT headsets, give the same amount of money for each win
(hell, just $50,000 or $100,000/game should do if you're making a
"million-dollar" version) and ditch the bonus game. Maybe Jack Barry
will be able to rest in his grave a bit better then.
NEXT TIME: Sale
of the 21st Century...
Chris Wolvie can't hear, "Hit me" without thinking, "Don't TEMPT me!"
Follow him on Twitter
and e-mail him at