Nov 14, 2013

Channel Surfing: Trust Me I'm A Game Show Host

Left to right: D.L. Hughley and Michael Ian Black
Welcome to a new column called Channel Surfing, in which I sporadically look at current TV shows and talk about them. These are not ones that I care to write weekly recaps for and are instead reflections either on the episode, the series, or particular moments. This will hopefully help to share personal opinions as well as discover entertainment on the outer pantheon that I feel is well worth checking out, or in some cases, shows that are weird enough to talk about, but should never be seen.
In a world that has countless hours of cheap programming, it would seem like game shows would be more popular and prominent in American culture. 10 years ago, shows like Who Wants to be a Millionaire? and the Weakest Link reigned supreme as prime time programming. The appeal was that it connected to the audience in ways that made them feel integral while also having this mystery of possibly becoming rich within a 30 minute span. 
While it is true that game shows still do exist, and there is even the Game Show Network, it feels like the era of game shows being the important touchstone to entertainment that they once were has seemed to pass. While shows like Ninja Warrior exist, there is a certain physicality to the performance and there isn't really an appeal to the common man. In fact, majority of the game shows on basic cable air before prime time and while shows like Jeopardy! and Family Feud continue to be recognizable, they don't hold nearly as prominent a place in gravitas. In fact, most competitive programming past 8 PM on basic cable is just celebrities forces to do random things for charities. While it could be entertaining, the connectivity has long been extinguished.
Which makes the idea of introducing a new show to be rather interesting. With TBS trying to capitalize on a brand of comedic programming, it has always felt like the subpar FX for originality, but a dynamo with reruns. While they have two great talk shows, Conan and the Pete Holmes Show, there isn't much to make TBS and their "Very Funny" motto ring true. Things are changing and they're becoming more adventurous with their selections. In fact, they even bring a new game show: Trust Me I'm a Gameshow Host.
As someone who has enjoyed his share of competitive programming that also tests intellect, it has become increasingly sparing that one of these would become a cultural behemoth. Even with the comedians D.L. Hughley and Michael Ian Black behind the wheel, there isn't any guarantee that this would actually work. The premise was almost too simple to the point that it could potentially fail, despite managing to get the audience back into the player's seat.

The premise is simple: the contestant must answer a series of questions. Actually, that is too broad for the show. The hosts each provide a "fact" and it is up to the contestant to figure out which one is false. Who is lying? It is an intriguing set-up, though the real beauty of the set-up is not in the game, but hearing the two comedians riff comedic anecdotes based off of those facts. Both sound convincing and there's often a surprise of which one is true.
However, the overall experience is lackluster. It isn't that the top prize is only $35,000. It is more in the mundane simplicity of things. Treated like Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, we hear the contestants work things out and while there is some humor in it, the overall result is 50/50 chance. There isn't much suspense or effort into it. With one contestant in a 30 minute episode and a minimal amount of "questions," there is a lot of dead time. The comedians can only make it work for so long.
The episodes aren't terrible, but the mechanics are so lazy that there is no point to it. The appeal of game shows is to challenge the contestant and stimulate viewers with a sense of realism. The Million Dollar Pyramid gives you the answer as well, but through cryptic clues, the questions are answered. There isn't any big mystery here and while you may learn a thing or two, it is too slow paced, unmotivated, and boring to really be anything more than another sign of why game shows suffer. It is more about the cash prize than the journey, and that is a shame.
There isn't really a way to even retool it to make it work better. Besides the comedians dispensing funny analogies, this show is dead upon entry. It is hoaky and while it has a lot of flashy effects, it screams for attention with very little. It looks like a game show without the game. Maybe by making the facts more cryptic or challenging this show could work. However, even then, the shot is 50/50 and that just doesn't work in the grand scheme of things. Even if the contestant is lively and is presented well on TV, it is too impersonal and there's no reason for motivation. It is too flaccid. 
Trust Me I'm a Gameshow Host had potential to be a game show not about the game, but the hosts. In a way, that is all that it could strive to be. Even then, I don't see the longevity to the concept and while it would make for a fun party game, this isn't rapid fire enough to keep anyone's interest. It only reflects TBS' continuing struggle to find great original programming with some of the best alternative comedians of today. It's just a shame that these two got stuck hosting the most forgettable show on the network.

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