The S.A.T. Of Game Show
are about to witness television history. The smartest people in the
country are about to play the toughest game ever devised. No saves,
no helps, no multiple choice(s). Our geniuses are ready. The pressure
is on. Will anybody be able to answer...
AIR DATES: May 20, 2015 to June 1, 2016
CREATOR: Mark Burnett & Mike Darnell
PACKAGER: United Artists Media Group (Season 1); MGM Television (Season
2); Warner Horizon Television
HOST: Richard Quest (Season 1); Dan Harris (Season 2)
WATCH IT HERE: YouTube
(clip only; cannot find full ep)
Talk about your mental marathons. The
smartest people in America march into battle with one goal and one
goal only: answer "500 Questions" without getting three
wrong in a row...because "three Wrong and you're gone!"
This was the show that finally stumped Ken Jennings, the show that
could lead to over a half-million dolaars to the winner, the show
that had a studio as big as the hype. The show that...couldn't even
get to the titular number of queries in a SEASON for one reason or
another. Dammit, man, if you have a title that says a certain number
of questions are to ask, I'm sure America expects you to ask ALL of
them. The changing of format and host between seasons were as much
a detrement as a help (to be honest, I was shocked to hear there would
BE a second season), but the format - even though simplified for the
second season - was still a bit confusing. While the ratings were
OK, they dropped in total during the second season and it's highly
unlikely a third one will be coming at any time.
HOW WAS IT PLAYED?
A "contestant" - who is a genius in one way or another (Jeopardy!
champ, high IQ, several degrees) - faces the 500 questions. A "challenger"
- also a genius - stands opposite them. The contestant's job is simple:
answer up to 500 questions, earning money on the way. Answer a certain
amount of questions and the challenger is replaced by another. The
most important thing is that the contestant cannot get three questions
wrong in a row; doing that retires the contestant and having them
replaced by the challenger, who starts a whole new set of 500 questions.
Each round starts with ten categories with five questions apiece (one
category was always "Random"). The contestant can take the
questions on in any order they wish.
There are four kinds of questions:
STANDARD QUESTION: The contestant has ten seconds to answer the question
correctly. They can guess all they want until the time elapses, but
they can only add $1000 to the bank if their FIRST answer is correct.
If they don't answer right withing ten seconds, they get a Wrong.
BATTLE QUESTION: The contestant picks whether they or the challenger
will start. A question with an even amount of possible answers is
posted and the two go back and forth naming off right answers. Whoever
cannot answer in three seconds, repeats an answer or gives a wrong
answer loses. If the challenger loses, the contestant gets $1000 in
their bank. If the contestant loses, they get a Wrong. If all possible
answers are given, the battle is a draw; no money, no Wrongs given
or taken away.
TRIPLE THREAT: The contestant must give three right answers within
10 seconds to earn $3000; else they get a Wrong.
TOP TEN CHALLENGE: The contestant can choose to take this question
themselves or pass it to the challengers. The one who gets the question
must give five out of a possible ten right answers within 15 seconds.
If the contestant gets it right or the challenger gets it wrong, the
contestant gets $1000. Otherwise, it's a Wrong.
Any correct answer will wipe out all Wrongs earned to that point.
If a contestant gets two Wrongs, the challenger gets to choice the
next category in the hopes of knocking them out.
When all 50 questions of a round are complete, the contestant gets
to take home the money in the bank and the challenger is replaced.
At the 25th question of each round, the right answer is worth $5000
to take home. If the contestant gets three Wrongs, they lose the money
in the bank (though any take-home money is theirs to keep).
Each contestant has to answer ten categories with only THREE questions
each to survive the round (and "Random" is no longer a category).
The questions only consist of Standard and Battle Questions. The $5000
bonus is also removed from the round. And contestants only have FIVE
seconds to answer a Standard Question (though they get $1000 no matter
how many guesses it takes). Otherwise, the rounds work the same as
At the end of each round, the contestant plays a Lightning Round.
For two minutes, they get asked as many questions as possible with
only ONE guess allowed. The contestant starts this round with no Wrongs
and three Wrongs ends the round. The contestant gets to take home
$1000 for every right answer given during the round.
When Richard Quest hosted, he seemed even more excited than the contestants.
His volume was stuck somewhere between "angry Sam Kinison"
and "British Premier League commentator". Nothing too wrong
with that, though; SOMEONE had to keep this relatively simple quiz
The set was kinda big for the true purpose...but it DID work to make
the game even bigger than it might've looked in, say, a Jeopardy!-style
set. The large boards showing the categories, how many questions are
left in each and the questions themselves helped even those in the
cheaper seats see what was going on.
As stated, aside from the largeness of the overall set, the part used
by the host, contestant and challenger were fairly simple...just like
the show itself. The music made it seem more exciting, too, which
And they FINALLY found a game show Ken Jennings is BAD at! He was
the first contestant of the second season...and he only lasted FOUR
questions before getting three Wrongs. So well done, Burnett; you
did what Merv Griffin couldn't.
WHAT DIDN'T WORK?
When I first decided to recap the shows, I thought that they would
ask 500 questions throughout the length of the show. I had NO idea
each new contestant had to start at question #1. When I found that
out, it automatically made me feel that NO one would make it to 500.
Not only was I right on THAT part, but they didn't ask 500 question
though EITHER SEASON! Dammit, if you're gonna plug a show called "500
Questions", you'd better have enough time to at least ASK that
many in TOTAL!
When Dan Harris took over in the second season, it was like a 180
from Mr. Quest; he was relatively quiet and reserved and didn't seem
all that invested in the outcome. It's as if he KNEW he wasn't going
to be there long.
While getting rid of the Top Ten and Triple Threat Questions were
a good move to speed things up, the Lightning Round was VERY unnecessary.
They should've stuck with the 50 Qs per round and just kept going.
To their credit, though, they DID get closer to 500 in the second
WOULD IT WORK TODAY?
Despite being a simplistic game show and not getting to 500 in either
season, I was engaged in the show. The combo of simple gameplay and
interesting set and music fascinated me. The basic gameplay may not
be all that unique but I was holding my breath a few times as the
clock ran down to see if the contestant would spit out the right answer.
I was quite shocked it came back for a second season...and disappointed
that a third one never surfaced. With a bit of tweaking, I could see
it being a weekly show somewhere.
NEXT TIME: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, number 10 paces, ANSWER!
Chris Wolvie could only answer 500 questions at gunpoint...maybe.
Follow him on Twitter @ChrisWolvie
and e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.