Thursday, December 9, 2010

"The Million Dollar Money Drop" Spotlight Preview

U.S. Host Kevin Pollack

Debuting on Dec. 20, 2010 on FOX is the 2-hour premiere episode of The Million Dollar Money Drop. The host of this one-week event (as FOX advertised) is Kevin Pollack, the host of the allegedly rigged game show “Our Little Genius”, a show which never made it to broadcast because of accusations of the producers feeding the answers to the questions to the contestants. Since The Million Dollar Money Drop will be airing in less than two weeks, I thought that it would only be appropriate to watch a few episodes of the live British game show The Million Pound Drop and do a quick “spotlight” review on this show so that you will know what to expect from The Million Dollar Money Drop.

The Million Pound Drop is hosted by Davina McCall. This show premiered on May 24, 2010 airing in the United Kingdom on the British network Channel 4. The contestants, appearing in a team of two, start with £1,000,000, divided in 40 £25,000 stacks. The contestants will have to answer a total of eight questions throughout the game. Before each question is asked, the contestants will have to choose one of two categories shown on the big screen.  After a category has been chosen, the contestants are now shown four possible answers (three answers on question 5-7, and two answers on the 8th question), shown over the “drops”. After McCall has read the question, the contestants will have one minute to place their money on the answer, or answers, on what they believe to be the correct answer. With each round of spreading the money between the various drop zones, one drop zone must always remain clear. If the contestants place their money on the correct answer, they get to keep their money. If the contestants place their money on an incorrect answer, that money will be dropped through the drop zone and lost forever for that team. The game ends when a team either loses all of their money or answers all eight questions correctly. If the contestants are successful in answering all eight questions correctly, they keep whatever money they have left in the game.
How much would you risk on this question?

If you thought the clock on seventh and eighth season of Who Wants to be a Millionaire was intimidating, then you haven’t seen The Million Pound Drop. The clock on Millionaire is nothing compared to one minute you have on The Million Pound Drop to not only think about what the correct answer is, but to also determine how much of the £1,000,000 you want to risk on what you think the correct answer might be. This is a multidimensional game, where the skills that are required to win this game are teamwork, knowledge, speed, decisiveness, strategy, quick-thinking, and daring. This show is filled with an incredible amount of suspense and tension that has the audience, the home viewers, the contestants, and even the host on edge, with a lot on the line with each question. There is a lot of pressure and tension added to the contestants as they progress through the game. From McCall constantly reminding the contestants how much time they have remaining to answer the question and place their money on the various answers, to the dead silence and dramatic pause during the answer reveal without any annoying background music playing, and even down to the opening of the drop zones, whether three drops open simultaneously or each drop opens one at a time with the suspense building with each drop opening, this show constantly has all of their contestants on edge.

There is also an incredible amount of risk in this game because of two key elements: NO LIFELINES and NO SAFE ZONES!!!!! The moment I saw that there were no lifelines or no “$25,000 milestones”, I immediately jumped for joy because I finally get to see a high stakes, big money, million-dollar game show with actual high risk involved. Each game has to be played in its entirety with no chances of bailing out during the game, even if the contestants have one £25,000 stack left in play. The Million Pound Drop emphasizes the expression “the bigger the risk, the greater the reward” with the removal of these two elements. To my knowledge, I don’t ever recall a million-dollar game show being played without the use of lifelines or milestones, at least in the United States.

A team of contestants quickly making
their move before time runs out. 
WARNING! This is NOT a one-player game!!! I believe that it is too much pressure for one person to think about the correct answer to a difficult question, even though it is multiple-choice, while managing £1,000,000, all within a minute time span. Many of the questions on the show are more difficult than normal. Some of the questions are about current events, down to what may have happen 40 minutes ago during the show’s live broadcast, making the game all the more challenging. If this show were to switch to a solo-player format (which was done in the first couple of episodes of the first season), the player should have at least 90-120 seconds to think about the question. This show displays the right amount of suspense and the proper usage of the breakaways to commercial breaks. Not only that, but the contestants’ reaction to the commercial breakaways is not so artificial and fake, like on Deal or No Deal. On a side note, I do like the use of nametags on the show, which is rarely seen on primetime game shows or any game show now days.

With £550,000 at risk, is "John Major" the correct answer? 
As previously stated in this article, The Million Pound Drop is broadcasted live. The last game show I have seen with a live broadcast was the 2001 FOX Family game show Paranoia, hosted by Peter Tomarken. During the live broadcast of this show, the home viewers can play along with the show by playing the online game, answering the same questions as the contestants on the program. This definitely enhances the “play-along factor”. This aspect of the show reminds me of how the home viewers could play along with the contestants on ABC’s Who Wants to be a Millionaire with “ABC’s Enhanced TV” and on History Channel’s History IQ back in 2000. The host does a great job of "ad-libbing” and keeping the show going with no awkward pauses, while the security guards return the £1,000,000 to the top of the stage because the show is live.

I think it goes without saying that this is an excellent program, constantly pulling great ratings, (click here for more information about the ratings) and the U.K. will be seeing a lot more of this show periodically.  My only hope is that this show will have the same success in the U.S. as it is in the U.K. and that the U.S. doesn’t mess-up this show like they did with Deal or No Deal. In fact The Million Pound Drop will be coming back just in time for the Christmas season, airing from December 15- December 18 on the UK’s Channel 4. Meanwhile back in the U.S., watch for the two-hour series premiere of the week-long event that is The Million Dollar Money Drop on December 20, 2010 on FOX starting at 8:00pm. 

***Episode Viewed and Reviewed on November 30, 2010***

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