Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Deal Or Big, Fat, Hairy Deal

It's official. The "Dumbing Down Of America" has reached a new nadir (or, if something negative becomes even more effective, does it reach a zenith?).

"Deal or No Deal" premiered last night.

Imagine a game show where the contestant has no need to even be conscious during the game play. That's "Deal or No Deal". It's the American version of a game created in the land of Heineken, legal hashish and storefront-window prostitutes, the combination of which would explain the brain-dead popularity of the concept. If you ever thought "Wheel of Fortune" was too intellectually challenging, "Deal or No Deal" is the game for you.

I watched the premiere on a television set, with the sound off. From across the room. While I was sitting in a local restaurant, where the Wife and I were having dinner with another couple. And I still knew everything that was going on.

In case you haven't watched NBC in the past few weeks (meaning you've missed their three-times-hourly promos for the show), "Deal or No Deal" is hosted by ... Howie Mandel. (Remember, the comedian who made Carrot Top look intellectual? The one who would pull a latex glove over his head and inflate it by exhaling through his nose? The guy who made one pine for the good ol' days of Gallagher? That's Howie.)

Howie Mandel. Now, if that doesn't already tell you everything you need to know about this show, go do some Sudoku puzzles and work on your logic skills. Apparently no other game show hosts were available. (What is Bob Eubanks up to these days, anyway? But I digress.)

A contestant comes on the high-tech stage, facing 26 gorgeous models straight out of the Miss Teen USA pageant (or more likely, straight out of Bambi's Boobie Bar). Each model has an aluminum briefcase. The briefcases contain a money amount from one cent up to $1 million. The player picks one briefcase, which is set down next to the contestant, but not opened. (So far, this sounds kind of like that old Chuck Barris show, The New Treasure Hunt, doesn't it?)

That ... um ... is pretty much the whole game. It takes two minutes. The rest of the hour is taken up with the contestant having the models open up the briefcases she didn't pick. The theory is that, if the million dollars is not in one of the other briefcases, it might be in hers.

So, just to annoy people, this game has found a way to work a cell phone into the proceedings. Yes, a cell phone. Every so often, the phone lights up and rings, and Howie ends up talking to a "Banker" who tries to buy the briefcase back from the contestant. If more high-dollar figures have been taken out of play, the briefcase isn't likely to contain as much and the banker will offer less. If the small money has been eliminated, the briefcase likely contains more and the banker will offer more.

Howie passes along the offer to the contestant and then, with all the gravitas and suspense he can muster, asks the player: "DEAL ... OR NO DEAL?"

This goes on until one of three things happen:

  • The player accepts the deal and wins the amount of the offer.
  • The player opens ALL the freakin' briefcases and wins the amount in hers.
  • The viewer throws a brick through the TV screen.
Now, in case the show wasn't annoying enough, the contestant gets to have three supporters on stage with her. In the first episode, the player's husband spent the hour nervously dancing around on stage like "Gene Gene The Dancing Machine" (another Chuck Barris reference) while Howie cracked jokes. As I indicated, the sound was off, but I still found myself expecting Howie to whip out the latex glove and put it on his head.

Oh, I nearly forgot: Apart from "DEAL ... OR NO DEAL?", there are no other decisions for the player to make. You do not have to phrase your response in the form of a question. You do not have to buy a vowel. You do not have to bid the closest to the actual retail price without going over. In other words, if you are capable of picking a number from 1 to 26, but have no other skills whatsoever, you are capable of playing this game.

Now, if you want to try playing "Deal or No Deal" yourself, NBC has helpfully provided a Flash version of the game on their website. It takes about sixty seconds to play. The TV show takes about an hour. That pretty much sums up the amount of filler in this show.

Critics' opinions of the show are divided. The Boston Globe, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and the Hollywood Reporter believe "Deal or No Deal" sucks, while the New York Post, Variety, and the Hartford Courant (what's a "courant"?) think the show merely stinks.

The producers of this show also produce "Fear Factor". Kind of tells you everything you need to know, doesn't it?

(And we wonder why so many people think Dubya is doing a good job ...)

posted by Gary @ 11:23 AM


At 6:05 PM, Blogger Andrew Tavani said...

Great post!

Thank you for watching this televised mental masturbation. I wanted to watch it so I could write something negative about it, but I just couldn't bring myself to turn it on. Thankfully you did. You are a noble man.

I'm just surprised you didn't vomit your dinner all over your friends. Keep up the good work.

At 8:49 PM, Blogger Frodo Corleone said...

I agree with the earlier commenter. How is this a game?

At 2:17 AM, Blogger Johnny Wadd said...

Howie Mandell is so annoying.

At 8:20 AM, Anonymous fruey (Let's Have It) said...

This exists in France too. It's called something equally inane, and I can only think that the ridiculous prize money offered keeps the braindead viewers watching. That, and getting good looking contestants to dance and stuff.

It's unbelieveable that it's also available in the US.


At 3:31 PM, Blogger golfwidow said...

You're like the Anthony Bourdain of bad television: eating the game show cobra hearts so the rest of us never have to taste them ourselves. There isn't enough brain-ketchup in the world where I would have been able to sit through that. Thank you.

At 8:33 PM, Blogger peebugg said...

Thanks for the warning!!!

At 10:54 PM, Blogger The Blogging Boss said...

I gave up game shows back in the 70s. Bob Eubank and Bob Barker were already enough for me. How old is Bob Barker anyway? 90?

Then we have the inane:

Pat Sajak
Alex Trebeck
Chuck Barris

Know their shows?


The first has a wheel, the second looked for people who were not real, the third had a thing for love, whether dating or connecting.

Since I do not watch American TV, and yes I am American, I doubt I would ever see this show, except if I was as unlucky as you.

TRAPPED in a mindless restabar.

Thanks for a great post, and well put!


At 2:43 PM, Blogger Crazy Like A Fox said...

Morbid curiousity forced me to watch the premiere last night. I thought it sucked, my 14 yr old son thought it was pretty good.

So, that pretty much says it all. If you have the mind of a teenager, you might like it. If you have completed puberty and your mind has matured a little, you will probably hate it.

At 5:02 PM, Blogger Bleebo said...

Watched that show. Not too shabby. Something new, at least. I think in order to make it more exciting... they should implement a duel somewhere.

- Horace Finkle, Teenage Ghost

At 10:52 AM, Blogger piksea said...

Oh, man. My sympathies to you for having to endure this. You have my everlasting gratitude for saving me from this mindless drivel.

At 8:22 PM, Blogger Kathryn Beach said...

I was surfing the channels, saw the wall of boobs and briefcases, and kept on going.

Call it instinct...

If you're looking for brains on tv, try CSI. Brains all over the place...

At 11:08 PM, Anonymous Stephanie Davies said...

That reminds me of old Saturday Night Live skits making fun of game shows and playing ones like "Pick a number between one and ten". Quite funny how things we thought were so stupid we would make fun of them are now becoming a reality. Personally, I think that's possibly the worst show I've ever heard of, though I haven't seen it. They could have made it more interesting by putting live rattlesnakes in some of the cases, or maybe a pair of used dentures...stuff like that would be entertaining now!

Howie Mandell is pretty bad. Tony Danza would have been worse.

At 11:17 AM, Blogger Snoop said...

Crap someone already nailed it “mental masturbation”.
But hey people are watching Skate with the Stars and that type of crap!
It was the number one show in the summer.
No wonder the terrorists want to run planes into our society.

At 5:30 PM, Blogger Evangeline said...

Wow, you watched it?

I'm not sure whether to applaud your courage or slap you.

At 8:07 PM, Anonymous Abraham said...

I agree with you about the show. I would rather jump out the window. The show offers no chance of letting people compete to win or answer questions.

But it is a simple, simple game for simple people who like simple games they can understand.

give me trivia.

Austin TX

At 5:55 PM, Anonymous Chuck said...

Jump on me all you want, but I like DoND...yes, the game itself is mind-numbingly simple, but to me, it's all about the execution, and the producers handle it quite well, although I'll admit the "banker" took some getting used to. I was also surprised that the contestants were just chosen from the audience randomly w/no qualifier, unlike the Australian version (down there, the show runs as a half-hr daily entry, w/a top prize of just $200K and other unique elements, such as the "Double Deal" and the chance at a new car).

As for Howie, I was pleasantly surprised by his performance...I'll admit to being a bit skeptical when he was first announced, but he's really grown into his role over the past few mos.

Why the high ratings, worldwide phenomenon, etc? The fact is that it's the ultimate psychological test: do you take the deal for some guaranteed respectable amount, like $100K or so, or hold out, knowing that offer could go down significantly as more cases are open, but keeping hope that your case holds the ever-illusive top prize? This is the first time on record that a game show's tried anything like this...sure, there's been shows like Let's Make a Deal, the aforementioned Treasure Hunt, etc. where contestants were offered MUCH smaller amounts not to take the box or w/e, but never on such a large scale as we see on DoND.

Besides, after the mid-90s era of Jerry Springer, Ricki Lake, and other trash talk shows (*that's* my idea of "mental masturbation" and "vomit-inducing" TV), it's about time the game show genre got a much-needed shot in the arm. If NBC doesn't make the mistake of "Millionairing" it to death the way ABC did another big-money show a few years back, I can guarantee that DoND will have a good run.

At 12:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

how much money do you think the models make?


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