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Point... or Counterpoint - December 23

(Chico Alexander)
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 contestants.

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 you're doing.

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.

4) Presentation. 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 your seat.

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.

(Gordon Pepper)
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, slooooowwww, slooooooooooooowwwwwwwwww....Both 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 wlti@gameshownewsnet.com.

 

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