Monday, October 18, 2010

The Best Game Show of All Time

There will never be a quiz show better than "Jeopardy!"


Now in its 27th season, the show perfected its formula a very long time ago and has sustained its success by never deviating. The most radical change in the show's history was host Alex Trebek's decision to shave off his signature mustache at the start of the 18th season.


All quiz shows are required to do the same thing: ask questions and give rewards for correct answers. The creators and producers of these shows work hard to come up with clever ways of doing so. Unfortunately, all that does is create lard that fills up show, taking time away from what we, the audience, really want: more questions.

Let's take a look at some recent successes in TV quiz shows.

"Who Wants to Be a Millionaire (no question mark)": Egregious time-waster. The host reads the questions and the multiple choice options very slowly. The contestants are encouraged to hem-and-haw, verbalize their thought process, utilize "lifelines," and then finally select their answer. And after all that, still more time is wasted when the host stops to verify whether or not this is, indeed, the final answer the contestant would like to give. (Has any contestant ever taken that moment to say, "You know what, I'm changing my answer"?) The maximum number of questions a contestant can be asked is 14. The only way to get a decent number of questions asked in a single episode is to hope the contestants get eliminated quickly.

"The Weakest Link": Significant time-waster. When questions are actually being asked, this show rivals "Jeopardy!" in the quantity department. Unfortunately, the longest round is only three minutes, with each successive round reduced in time. Far too much time is filled between question rounds with host banter and contestant-elimination voting.

"Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader? (question mark kindly included)": Biggest time-waster. Only six questions per contestant, with a typical maximum of two contestants per episode. In other words, maximum lard.

Look, these shows can be enjoyable I suppose. But you have to be really into host banter and hope that the contestants they get are remotely interesting. Me? I don't care how funny the hosts think they are, and I rarely find the contestants interesting. I watch quiz shows for one reason: to answer the questions myself.

The genius of "Jeopardy!" is in its gimmick -- the host gives the "answers" and contestants give the "questions." They don't have to waste time justifying the presence of 9-year-olds or gussying up the question rounds with needless frills. This allows a maximum number of questions to be asked in a fast-paced half hour format.

When it comes to question volume, memory recall speed, and overall challenge, I doubt anything will ever top "Jeopardy!"

Bonus: recording "Jeopardy!" on your DVR and skipping past the contestant interview segment. Because CONTESTANTS ARE BORING (see above)!

1 comment :

  1. Yes! Jeopardy is the king of quiz shows. I had no idea, though, that it's been so long that Trebek's upper lip has been bald. It feels like only yesterday he had the mustache...

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