Million Second Quiz
Slipping Into Obscurity,
One Second At A Time
Who's Still Standing?
AIR DATES: September 9, 2013 to September 19, 2013
CREATOR: Stephen Lambert
PACKAGER: All3Media America; Studio Lambert Productions; Ryan Seacrest
Productions; Universal Television
HOST: Ryan Seacrest
WATCH IT HERE: YouTube
(clip only; cannot find full ep)
Seems simple, doesn't it? And relevant,
to boot. A bunch of people use social media to take a quiz. Qualifiers
are allowed to come to New York City to take part in a game where
you could win up to $10 million dollars as long as you sit in a "Money
Chair" and keep answering questions better than your challenger.
A million seconds after the "show" starts, the four with
the most money accumulated play a ladder format to see who gets $2
million more. So why did NBC make "The Million Dollar Quiz"
so damn COMPLICATED?! Yes, I can understand SOME of what they did
during the times when the live TV cameras were rolling. But not ALL
of it. They turned a novel concept into a (rhymes with "mustard
truck") and, needless to say, it was derided by critics and fans
HOW WAS IT PLAYED?
The "quiz" takes place on the roof of a building overlooking
the Lincoln Tunnel, shaped like an hourglass. One person sits in a
"Money Chair" (and I denote them as "Champion"
during this review), which starts to add up money at one dollar every
tenth of a second. Another person - who has been standing in a line
to participate - stands at a "challenger station". The two
then answer multiple-choice questions to accumulate points. They only
have five seconds after all the choices have been read to them. Whoever
is right (even if it's both of them) earns points. The bout lasts
a set amount of time. If the Champion has more points than the challenger,
they stay in the seat and await the next challenger. If the challenger
has more points, they replace the Champion in the "Money Seat",
starting a $0 and moving up after sitting down.
If a Champion ends their run with one of the four highest amounts,
they stay in "Winner's Row" until someone beats their score.
All bouts outside of the live TV episodes last 500 seconds and each
question is worth one point.
During the aired episodes, three bouts are played. During each bout,
the questions start at one point apiece and go up by one every 100
seconds. Both Champion and challenger may also, instead of answering,
"double" the opponent, forcing them to answer the question
for double points. A wrong answer gives the doubled points to the
one who "double"d. However, the one who got "double"d
can "double back", forcing the initial doubler to answer
for QUADRUPLE points.
The first aired bout is the "Challenger" round, which is
played by the next person in line. The next is "Jump the Line",
where someone who qualified using the MSQ app and doesn't HAVE to
wait in line. The third is "Winner's Defense". The "Power
Player" in Winner's Row - which was the one with the most money
in the first EP or the one who answered the most question right during
the taping from then on - chooses one of the four Winner's Row players
to put their money on the line again the current Champion (even themselves,
if they wish). The winner of that bout gets both the money in the
Money Chair and the money the Winner's Row challenger accumulated.
If it's the Winner's Row challenger, they go back into the Chair and
their winnings continue to accumulate. Otherwise, the challenger leaves
After the million seconds expire, the four in Winner's Row then play
a ladder-format tournament of bouts. Fourth-place faces third-place
in a 400-second bout, the winner of that plays the second-place person
for 400 seconds and the winner of THAT faces the biggest winner in
a 500-second bout. The winner of that tournament gets an additional
Have to admit, the set was pretty snazzy. The large hourglass certainly
added to the motif of the "quiz". And, should inclement
weather attack, they could just rush inside the building and continue
(that never seemed to happen when the cameras were rolling, though).
The "Money Chair" looked kind of cool, too...in a "neo-90s"
sort of way.
Ryan Seacrest used his years on "American Idol" to good
use. Almost always smiling, always keeping the show going at a good
clip. And his youthful demeanor and looks didn't hurt him in the least.
He looked put young and veteran-like at the same time.
WHAT DIDN'T WORK?
Oy...where to begin? Having the TV bouts with a different scoring
system as the non-TV ones was not a good idea. I understand that it's
relatively boring going one point at a time but even the least-experienced
of hosts can make it SEEM more exciting. Heck, the clip I managed
to find was of the first non-TV bout after a TV episode...and it seemed
exciting to me to a point. And the "double" and "double
And about the "Winner's Defense": why didn't they just have
that at the very end? Those in Winner's Row EARNED their places, dammit!
They shouldn't be subjected having their spot usurped every night.
I can understand it at the end since the person in the Money Chair
probably doesn't have enough time to earn their way in the Row...but
they should've done it just then or every hour or two if you want
to really be consistent.
And while the concept was intriguing, you have to believe that everyone
on line had to have asked for two weeks off from work, just in case
they made it to Winner's Row. And THAT dropped productivity in this
country a bit, I'm sure. And what of those who COULDN'T get the time
off?! They're best chance of being on a game show and they have to
WORK during it?!
Oh, and why should the Winner's Chair amount keep going up when the
Champion ISN'T answering questions? He could be on the toilet for
10 minutes and earn $6000 just taking a poop. And the "TV time
outs" during the episodes still kept the clock running, too.
WOULD IT WORK TODAY?
A similar concept would work, I'm sure. But, to keep things fair,
the format shouldn't change just because the camera's are on. What's
more, make it $20 per second and stop the "Money Chair"
when you're not in a bout. A 500-second bout means $10,000 and that
should be sufficient moolah for a win. People felt it was all style
and VERY little substance...and they were right. Work out the kinks
and try again if you are even THINKING about a second go-round of
this! Otherwise, "nice try".
NEXT TIME: Half-a-thousand queries...or maybe not...
Chris Wolvie's would rather take a million microsecond quiz, thankyouverymuch.
Follow him on Twitter @ChrisWolvie
and e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.