Point... or Counterpoint
- December 23
Monty Hall once said, of his game show "Let's Make a
Deal" and other greats to follow, that there is a moment
when a contestant can either win or lose everything.
Enter "Deal or No Deal", the bastard child of Monty
Hall's "Deal" and Chuck Barris' "Treasure Hunt." A
combination of sleek presentation, contestant drama, and
the capacity of large amounts of money to change hands
has fueled this series to become one of the world's top
games in history. But even after 35 countries and over
half a billion dollars, it still has yet to conquer
America. Until now. NBC has released the American
adaptation of the world hit, but does it live up to its
predecessors? Let's look at what works, shall we?
1) The game itself...
Not exactly what you call "game show fodder," but it's
different than what we've seen. Sure we've all seen game
shows that test your physical and mental prowess under
extreme amounts of pressure, but what about sheer luck?
It's basically game theory put into practice. You have a
choice to make, and the rest of the game depends on the
outcome of that choice. And at its heart, it's what
every great game show is about. Sure you've seen it in
practice on "Let's Make a Deal" and "Friend or Foe?",
but I bet it sneaked right past you while you were
watching "Big Brother" or "Jeopardy!". The question
remains: do I take the sure thing, or do I continue on
and maximize my return?
Each round comes with
that question. And it's all on the player to decide
whether or not to continue on for more... or less. And
while we're on that subject, I have always said that the
best game shows are "people driven," not with flash or
polish. It's why I await "Jeopardy!" and "The Price is
Right". It's why I abhor "The Bachelor" and any
derivative thereof. On "Deal," you have contestants that
you want to win. The "helpers" want you to win. Howie
wants you to win. The audience wants you to win. Hell,
even the models want you to win! How can you not like a
situation where everyone (save, of course, for the
banker) is behind the hero?
2) Howie, for a
person who's been an actor, a comedian, and a cartoon
character, is quite adept at the hosting business. He
knows when to keep the game moving. He knows when to
string out the drama. He knows how to throw it to break.
I've told people, "He eats Tarrant for breakfast." I
stand by that. Howie's a big part of the pacing of the
game, and he knows how to wring each moment for all it's
worth. Opening rounds, "Just open the case." Subsequent
rounds is more dramatic, especially when the big money
is on the line. That is when the pressure has to count
the most, and from a presentation standpoint, that is a
good thing. Especially when you're trying to build a
show out of human drama.
Another plus for Howie...
Non-involvement. In journalism, a good reporter only
writes the story (which explains why some people
*ahem*Bill O'Reilly*ahem* are piss poor journalists),
not becomes it. Howie does not become the game. Howie
just moderates, guiding through the punches, the kicks,
the throws, and the occasional stabbing. And through it
all, he knows that the game is all about the
3) The money tree...
Here you have the opportunity for a big payout. By DoND
custom, the final seven prizes are the ones you should
be looking for. And unless you're going into the game
with a tape date on Friday the 13th having just walked
under a ladder, broken a mirror, and having a black cat
cross your path while you step needlessly on cracks, you
should be able to use that fact to your advantage,
either by having the case or by believing you have it to
milk the bank for all its worth. Obviously the chances
of you picking the million off the bat are... damn near
slim. The mathematics behind it are just staggering...
even to our writer Mike, who will soon calculate this
sort of thing for the youth of our country, God willing.
But basically, if you
have a person who knows how to play the game, and that
person is lucky enough, you're going to see a big
payout. Six figures at least. That is.. IF you know what
But even if you don't
know what you're doing, it's still fun to watch. Just
for the reaction to someone opening $100... or $100,000.
Admittedly, this game will live and die on its
presentation, and every single bit of it matters.
Howie's hosting. The models' case handling. The banker's
shadowy presence. The money board. The loved ones. The
entire audience. Everything feeds off of everything
else, and interplay is what makes a good presentation
works. Everything is polish. ... Excpet for the editing
of the ADR pieces, but we've seen worse! Err... we've
HEARD! Worse! And I'm a person that is all about "game
first". The game and the presentation feed into each
other, and it makes watching easier. They just need to
be careful of stepping into Wheel of Fortune territory.
5) No intrusions that
take away from the game. The only thing the game is
limited to in terms of intrusions is the limit of your
voice yelling "Take the $275,000, Traci!"...
Sorry, I'm watching this
as I type. Long story short, it has you on the edge of
Of course, it's not
without fault. Howie's voice likes to switch tone from
time to time... Mechanically. We leap from move to move
like no one's business in order to make one hour worth
of television. We don't get a trivia qualifier. The
banker just sits there doing sudokus all day. But aside
from that, it's probably an hour well spent. Certainly
better than most of the shows we've seen this year and
definitely better than most of the shows that NBC has
come out with in the past two years.
So what do I personally
think? It's like what Orwell once was trying to say
through his works: "It's not perfect, but I'll take it."
A solid 4 out of 5... Work through the flaws, and you've
got a solid Deal.
On Monday, December 19, 2005, the American public
awaited to see what the world has already experienced -
Deal or No Deal. While most of my brethren at Game Show
NewsNet were happy with what they saw, I admit to be
disappointed with what graced my television screen. Once
again putting on the Haterade Cap, I will politely
disagree with Chico and go
over the 5 main reasons why, in my mind, this show gets
a huge No Deal from me.
1) Pacing. Slow,
contestants got through the game in around 50 minutes.
It should not take 50 minutes for a player to open up 26
suitcases - especially since it only takes around 15
minutes for the person to go through five rounds. That's
20 cases opened, leaving 35 minutes to open up the
remaining six. Any game show works the best when it
moves, and when we are down to six cases, the game moves
at the speed of molasses. I'm sure that they want to
ratchet up the tension, but you can't ratchet up
anything if your audience falls asleep. When a new
person shows up, I can change the channel and come back
in 40 minutes, because after 40 minutes, either a) we
are at that moment when we should really care or 2) the
person took the deal, which means that they were
incredibly unlucky and got stuck at an amount that the
audience isn't really going to care much about, anyway.
2) Howie Mandel. Before you all send me a barrage
of hate mail, I will admit that as the week progressed,
Howie surprised me with his hosting skills. I believe
that he is going to do a very good job as the show
progresses. That being said, he did not do a very good
job in the first
episode. I understand the show because I do my research
before watching anything, but if I sat down and watched
the show without knowing anything about it, I would have
been completely lost for the first 10 minutes as Howie
explained it, because he never spoke about how the
Banker works and how he influences the deal. There was
no strategy discussed - at all - and if I had no clue
what was going on, I would have switched the channel.
More importantly, he never talked about how what the
player does affects what the Banker does. Can we assume
it? We could, but a good host doesn't let you assume
anything - especially on the first night of a new show.
For starters, on that first episode, when there were
only four money amounts left, Howie said that should she
find the $500,000, the bank offer would be much lower.
That doesn't really add much pressure onto the
situation, but this does -"Should you find the $500,000
suitcase, since the next highest spot is $25,000, you
are guaranteed to lose at least $100,000." That's MUCH
more dramatic, and in any of the episodes, he hasn't put
the pressure on in terms of money amounts. In
Millionaire, Regis Philbin and Meredith Vieira always
hammered home what exactly was at stake, and Howie needs
to do the same.
3) Editing. Perhaps he did say it - but we didn't
get to hear it. There was more bad cuts than what the
fashion designers do on an episode of Project Runway. I
don't know what the editors had to do, but based on all
of the edits and all of the voiceovers, there must have
been a lot of things that got mangled. The editors may
have earned the pay, but there was way too much time
spent on the family and not enough time spent on The
strategies of the game. We did get more obvious
voiceovers of Howie discussing strategy on their later
episodes - but this should have happened on the first
episode as well.
4) Playability Factor. So we can all scream at
the television set and tell the moron to Deal or No
Deal. Big whoop. The playability, which allows you to
show everyone just how much better you are (either
solving word puzzles, guessing prices, answering trivia
questions, or what have you) just isn't there because
the only real strategies of this game are only going to
be discussed about by math geeks like myself or the
people who are into stratagem or math geeks like myself.
To all of the other normal people out there, the only
'real' playability is if you want to get involved in an
asinine phone contest where the networks are more than
happy to relieve you of your 49 cents per call.
5) Exploitation. It's bad enough that you are
going to have someone go through possibly the most
traumatic period of their life - and that their family
is watching them. But Wednesday's show sunk to a whole
new low as the studio calls up the poor contestant's
kids to tell the contestant to take the Deal. That
hasn't happened with any other contestant, and frankly,
it got me sick to my stomach seeing it. It's good thing
that the producers don't know what's in the suitcases,
because if they did, and the contestant happened to have
had the million, you could see an interesting case made
for tampering there. Even without the tampering charge,
shame on NBC and the producers for exploiting the
contestant in that fashion.
The fact of the matter is that although we all want to
see "Deal or No Deal" succeed, it needs a severe amount
of work done on it. It needs better editing, a host that
needs to be more polished and the pacing to be quicker
so that we aren't barraged with quick edits. Even with
those aspects corrected, it just doesn't have the legs
to be stimulating enough to watch in primetime three
nights a week. You could put it on a once a week slot on
a Sunday night, per se, but I don't think that it would
do the show justice there either. Where I think it would
do much better is a 30 minute five-day a week show with
much tighter editing, like Millionaire's success in the
same syndication field. It could definitely find a spot
on a weekday syndicated basis, but as for an induction
as a Millionaire-type prime time show? No Deal.
Chico Alexander was never burdened as a child...
Gordon Pepper was never hugged. Email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.