Thursday, January 11, 2007

Deal or No Deal: The Evolution of the Evening Game Show

Deal or No Deal marks two big changes in the 'game show' genre. First is the return of a game show to prime time. Second is that the show is chance-based rather than skill-based.

When "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" became wildly successful in prime time, there was a rush by all the major networks to come up with other game shows to broadcast in prime time. Almost all of these shows were a disappointment if not an outright failure when it came to attracting an audience and advertisers. Analysts of television concluded that "Millionaire" was a fluke and that no other game show could be successful in prime time. Then, of course, "Deal or No Deal" exploded in the ratings demonstrating that the prime time game show was not dead after all.

But, perhaps more interesting, "Deal" is a very different game show than "Millionaire". Even though both have excellent production values, lavish sets, and exciting theme-music, "Deal" is a game of chance. Perhaps with our cultures renewed interest in card games, games of chance are enjoying a resurgence. Who would have guessed that the World Series of Poker would become a spectator sport? However, prior to "Deal" most of the most successful game shows in the last decade have been skill-based or knowledge-based.

With the amazing string of victories of Ken Jennings it became clear that Jeopardy was not the game for everyman. This game was dominated by intelligent, educated people that studied the game-guides extensively prior to their appearance. Even the venerable "Wheel of Fortune", with the luck of the wheel, required creativity and mental agility.

"Deal or No Deal" is completely random. The game for everyman. No education, no preparation, no intellectual problem. There is no skill component. It is solely decided on chance and willingness to risk. Were it not for Howie Mandel's odd watchability and the antics of the contestants, the show would be unwatchable. It certainly doesn't lend itself to playing along at home.

And yet, the show is performing very well in the ratings for the very reason that we all feel as though we could do just as well, if not better, than the contestants. It is not possible to watch without answering for themselves "Deal or No Deal".

If you want the experience of playing the game, attached is a link to try your luck. The great thing about this online game is that without Howie Mandel and commercial breaks, you can play ten times in five minutes.

(c) 2007

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