Oh Sit! debuts tonight on The CW at 8 p.m. Eastern.
In every generation a show comes along that perfectly captures the zeitgeist, and along with it the hearts and minds of the people of that generation with the simple power of its presence.
Yeah, Oh Sit! is not that show. It’s a show about musical fucking chairs.
Apparently, it’s wholesale time on lame party games from your childhood and The CW is on the case, turning the flimsy and utterly forgettable game of musical chairs into a bloated, physically exhausting, full-contact sport, a lame showcase of people running around a second-rate obstacle course while a third-rate wedding band plays. (Next on the schedule: Red Rover with land mines! Red Light Green Light with those scary statues from Doctor Who! Pin The Tail On The Donkey with actual donkeys—watch out, they kick!)
The first sign something is amiss—beside, you know, the fact that the show is based on a game kindergarteners play—happens the second hosts Jamie Kennedy and Jessi Cruickshank appear onscreen, faces full of horror and regret. When Jamie Kennedy looks embarrassed to be involved, you know you’re in trouble. To Kennedy’s credit, his instincts are good: Everything about the hosts and their involvement in the show is mortifying, from the obviously scripted banter to the fact that they are so far removed from the action they could have recorded their commentary from a different zip code. (Sideline reporter Tanika Ray is the only bright spot here, as she at least appears to be a human with a soul and the capability to speak in something other than snide sarcasm.)
The first thing the hosts are tasked with is explaining the byzantine rules of the game, which break down to “run around the circular obstacle course until the music stops and then claim a chair in the middle.” The actual scoring rules are far more complicated than they need to be, but the star here isn’t the ridiculous way the contestants earn money but the course itself. The Oh Sit! course resembles nothing more than the Wipeout set, a horrifically ugly amalgamation of obstacles designed to break the very soul of the contestants—and maybe their bodies too.
Also like Wipeout, the hosts are only there to make snide, sarcastic, and painfully unfunny comments about the contestants as they hurl themselves through the course in an attempt to earn cash. (Sample exchange: “The Beard just got shaved.” “I’ll always be your beard, Jamie.”) Unlike Wipeout, there is almost no joy in watching these people compete, as the course is physically exhausting but not in an absurd or surreal way. These contestants are bone tired to the point of hurting themselves, and watching them futilely attempt to conquer an obstacle over and over again isn’t entertaining or even inspirational—it’s sad, and more than a little bit boring. In the pilot episode alone, two people suffer injuries and yet another quits within 30 seconds of starting the course. At one point an eliminated contestant is so exhausted his exit interview is done with him lying on his back, gasping for air as the host hovers over him like an EMT giving first aid.
The main problem here is what the show calls Chair Island, the central point of the obstacle course and where the contestants must fight for chairs once the music stops. The tricky part is they must first navigate their way to Chair Island over a pool, using only a few ludicrously difficult crossing obstacles to get there. This means contestants are never really fighting over chairs the way a traditional musical chairs game ends, pushing or shoving to get that last seat. Because why feature the only interesting thing the original game offers when instead you can show people slowly making their way towards the chairs, with little to no suspense at all?
The kicker to this madness is that once the course is run, they have to run it again. And again. And again, eliminating two contestants each round. By the time they get to the final round, you’re so numb with boredom and the contestants are so riddled with fatigue the final obstacle course—with Chair Island elevated enough in difficulty to now become Chair Mountain—seems like something the audience itself has to overcome, instead of the contestants. And once a winner ascends Chair Mountain, sitting in that final solo chair, the show just… ends. No fanfare. No celebration. Just a quick glance at how much money the winner acquired over the course of the game and a brisk sendoff from the hosts. It’s hard to completely bungle the emotional climax of a game show when someone wins a decent amount of cash, but somehow Oh Sit! is just incompetent enough to do it.
It’s baffling how willing The CW is to throw reality-television programming into the network’s ratings abyss, shows that have next to no chance of even getting decent sampling, let alone succeeding. It’s especially baffling to see it produce yet another reality show that’s so depressingly static, so devoid of imagination, interest, or anything redeeming beyond a slightly promotable logline and a punny title. There comes a time when giving up on a genre is an acceptable course of action, which The CW knows all too well from previously giving up on the half-hour comedy. The network has so few programming resources at its disposal that it seems harsh to tell it to throw an entire genre into the fire, but that’s what it’s come to. If the first 100 times you don’t succeed, don’t try again. Just give up.
But hey, the winner declares the show “the best thing that’s ever happened” to them, and their family members are “really, really proud,” so what the hell do I know?