Thursday, March 01, 2007

Are You Dumber Than A Game Show Contestant?

A couple of points about "Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader?", the Fox show that is already the highest-rated new show of the season, entirely because it follows "American Idol" this week.

I like Jeff Foxworthy, and have no problem with him following in the footsteps of Howie Mandel and Bob Saget in the new pantheon of comedians hosting primetime game shows (once upon a time, those jobs went to radio DJs like Bob Eubanks and Wink Martindale and Tom Bergeron).

My problems with "Are You Smarter" begin with the fact that the show's pace is way too sluggish. I counted exactly six questions in the first half-hour show. Only six?!? "Jeopardy" gets in ten times that in thirty minutes! The sluggishness is because of the faux suspense built into every answer and every decision. That pause for dramatic effect is phony, we're sick of it, and it slows down the game.

Moreover, the show is a ripoff of Jay Leno's "Jaywalking" bit -- ask regular people basic questions that they probably learned when they were young but have long since forgotten, and make them look foolish as they try to come up with the answers.

That's not a bad concept, but when the first contestant didn't know what month Columbus Day is in, I wanted a new game show punishment to be inflicted: when a contestant can't answer the first, simplest question on any show like this or "1 vs. 100" or "Millionaire," a trap door should open in the stage, and they should be immediately dropped into the molten core of the Earth.

Then call the show "Thin The Herd."