Exit debuts tonight on SyFy at 10 p.m. Eastern.
Upon learning that this new SyFy series is based on a Japanese game show, it’s only natural to expect plenty of screaming, creepy production design, and possibly life-threatening danger. Exit offers all of the above, but never approaches the genuine lunacy of the more extreme Japanese game shows. In fact, it’s rather dull most of the time, and aside from a few cosmetic touches, seems out of place on its home network.
Four teams of two are “assembled in the rotunda,” which some cheesy CGI leads us to believe is deep inside a mountain. (Actually, it’s the Universal Orlando Resort, and all of the contestants are Floridians.) They are: Dez and Collette, a dating couple; Jaime and Rebecca, a pair of cheerleaders; Heather and Chris, self-proclaimed nerds; and Angelo and Elgin, breakdancers. Our host is Curt Doussett, who previously hosted America’s Lost Treasures and Hazard Pay, and comes equipped with the requisite amount of smarm for this job.
The game plays out through four different rooms, each offering a new peril for the teams. They must answer questions or solve puzzles, and one team will be eliminated in each room. The final team standing doesn’t necessarily win anything, as its members must still solve one last room’s mysteries in order to claim the $10,000 prize. Not only is this not life-changing money when split between two people, it’s also possible that an episode will end with no one winning anything at all.
In the first room, the floor disappears, leaving each pair of contestants standing on a beam that will retract one inch for every second that passes without them solving a puzzle correctly. The first team to lose its beam completely will fall into the dark depths below, never to be seen again. The puzzles are fairly simple photo rebuses: a jar of honey and a picture of the moon equals, well, honeymoon. If not for the retracting beams, this would be as boring as watching someone play bar trivia, and even with the beams, it drags on a bit. Let’s get those suckers moving a little faster!
After the members of one team fall to their presumed deaths, the remaining three move on to the “Freezer Blaster,” which is at least vaguely science-fictional in that it looks like a cross between HAL 9000 and a leftover set from Joel Schumacher’s Batman and Robin. (Throughout the episode, there’s also a chilly female computer voice of the sort that used to turn up on Star Trek. Half the time it seems that either she or Doussett is redundant, as they’re often stepping on each other’s lines.) Here teams must correctly answer trivia questions using oversized Atari cartridges lest they be subject to arctic blasts from ceiling vents. If successful, they will receive the code that releases the wire cutters needed to defuse the bomb that would otherwise freeze them to death.
The final two teams are pitted against each other in a room filled with...well, not quicksand exactly. More like very, very slow sand. I have to believe the Japanese version of this show (Dero!) at least had some poisonous snakes writhing around in that stuff, because otherwise this segment is an all too appropriate metaphor for the quagmire Exit has become. In the end, the last team standing must complete a series of challenges in a cabin in the woods. This is a bit more visually stimulating, as the ceiling is being lowered onto them, knocking paintings off the walls and crushing shelves all the while.
Aside from the race-against-time gimmicks, a show like this rises and falls on the personalities of its contestants and host. This is where Exit really falls apart, because most of the competitors are bland and instantly forgettable. The only ones that really make an impression are Heather of the “nerd” team (mainly because she has purple hair) and the breakdancers, who are memorable for bad reasons. They’ve both got goofy locks (Angelo has a cascading ‘fro, while Elgin sports a lacquered Bob’s Big Boy coif) and speak exclusively in up-to-the-minute B-Boy lingo (assuming this is 1992). Almost every word out of their mouths is annoying, but then, it’s clear that all of the teams have been fed lines from the producers. (Heather even busts out an “I’m not here to make friends,” as if hoping to be added to the next update of that supercut.) Host Doussett has mastered the art of the douchey rejoinder, which I suppose is what we expect from our game show hosts these days. But given its origins, Exit is surprisingly light on the sort of energy and craziness that might have made for a guilty summer pleasure.
Worst scripted line? I’ll have to go with “We’re kind of stuck in the capital of Sucksville right now.” Runner-up: Anything the B-Boys said.
I did kind of get a kick of out the “name four things that are younger than Larry King” challenge.
The editors used the footage of Heather saying “This is definitely the creepiest room yet” twice. So which was it?