I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with “Reality TV” and all these newfangled gameshows. I’m not sure when gameshows started being called Reality TV, but that’s just the way it is nowadays.
The best one by far was The Mole, but it only lasted two or three beautiful seasons. It was intelligent and audience could play along as much as the contestants themselves, looking for clues and trying to solve the mystery by the end of the season. But “the smartest show on television” was, apparently, too much for the general public.
Over Christmas there was a new one called Identity, which was great because we could superficially judge people based on their appearance and win money for it. My sister and I had lots of fun yelling at the TV during that one.
“Number twelve has bigger boobs! She’s the Las Vegas Showgirl!”
Recently the big show on campus has been Deal or No Deal, which makes heavy use of the very popular element of suspence but not much else. “Choose a briefcase and then we’ll spend an hour telling you how much you won!”
But I don’t know what to make of FOX’s new gameshow, Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader? Whereas Who Wants to be a Millionaire? asked genuinely difficult (or at least obscure) big money questions, this show does the opposite. While I think all quiz shows have a test to see if you’re smart enough, this one must require you to fail it. It’s both satisfying to watch (because I know all almost all the answers, except for some of the USA specific ones) but ridiculously annoying at the same time:
“ORANGE! Red and yellow make orange!”
“The sun is the closest star to Earth! No, I don’t need a commercial break for suspense before you tell us the answer, it’s the sun! THE FREAKING SUN! THAT BIG BRIGHT BALL OF FIRE ABOVE YOU!”
Suspense doesn’t really work on this one. There was no million-dollar question tonight—the contestant bowed out for not knowing how many years are in two millenia. The category, though, was “5th Grade Physical Sciences”. If I could get on that show all my financial problems would be solved. Unfortunately I suspect my Bachelor’s in Physics will disqualify me…
Addendum: If you’re interested, here’s a blog post on the statistics of winning Deal or No Deal.