I should be the ideal audience for NBC's upcoming game show Minute To Win It. I'm a game show fanatic, and though I didn't include Beat The Clock on my 2006 list of game shows due for revival, I definitely dig the basic concept of contestants having to perform mundane and/or ridiculous tasks under the pressure of a time limit. (Although I haven't seen the British series The Cube, which is apparently one of Minute To Win It's other inspirations, and which has been picked up by Fox for a straight-up remake.) But while watching the Olympics over the past two weeks, whenever I've seen a commercial for Minute To Win It, I've been instantly turned off.
Look, I realize that network executives are trained to play it safe, and win audiences with familiarity. It's clear that NBC doesn't want to confuse anyone. If you're flipping through channels and you pass by Minute To Win It, you'll see a darkened in-the-round stage, superfluous spotlights, and some vaguely familiar person standing next to a too-peppy schlub, and you'll know in an instant that you're watching a game show.
But y'know what, NBC? Your ratings are in the tank. (Olympics notwithstanding.) You've become the butt of jokes. Why not take advantage of your underdog status and come up with the next generation of game show "look," rather than rehashing Who Wants To Be A Millionaire yet again? Because I don't know about you readers, but if I'm flipping through channels and I see a game show with that now-overfamiliar set up, I'm inclined to keep going. For one thing, even though I can tell right away that I'm watching a game show, I can't tell which game show. Is Guy Fieri guest-hosting Deal Or No Deal? Is that Password remake still on the air? What fresh hell is this?
Granted, game show producers have long been copycats when it comes to style. If you turned on What's My Line or I've Got A Secret or To Tell The Truth in the '50s and '60s, you got used to seeing four semi-celebrities sitting behind a long podium, asking questions. The syndicated versions of Tic Tac Dough and The Joker's Wild and the like in the '70s and '80s played out in what looked like carpeted basement dens. In the mid '70s, there was a vogue for elaborate games like The Magnificent Marble Machine and The Money Maze, taking place on sets full of crazy, oft-malfunctioning gadgets.
But this current style has been dominant for over a decade now. Heck, I'd prefer something retro at this point. Tell me you wouldn't stop and see what was going on if NBC aired a Minute To Win It that looked like the Bud Collyer-hosted Beat The Clock:
Or the super-'60s Jack Narz version:
Or the '70s-tastic Monty Hall one:
Or even the recent Gary Kroeger take:
My point is: there's such a legacy of game show looks for NBC to exploit if they don't want to come up with something new. Anything but that dire circle and those dreaded banks of lights yet again. Anything.