It almost feels wrong to review 101 Ways to Leave a Game Show, ABC’s latest second-hand embarrassment game show after the great success of Wipe Out, because almost everything about the show, right down to its name, is meant to be mindless. To review is to automatically think too hard about it. And 101 Ways to Leave a Game Show, which has put all its efforts into staging elaborate stunt ejections for the eliminated contestants, not into designing a game by which they might be eliminated fairly or logically, does not want you to think too hard about it.
Still, I must, if only to warn you not to do the same if you happen to tune in tonight.
Eight contestants are competing for $50,000. They’ll compete in small-group challenges until one is left standing, and each round will see its loser leave the show by flying off on the wing of a biplane. Or falling off the side of a truck. Or dragged through the mud by a wild boar. There may not actually be 101 ways, but there must be at least 25. The host introduces each exit like it’s one of those gross, made-up sex positions that boys make up creative names for on the internet: “I like to call this one, road rage.” Then he explains that the format of the show is simple: Get the question right, you’re safe. Get it wrong, and you won’t survive this round. Well, literally, you will. But as you zoom away on the wing of that biplane with your spandex-clad thighs whipping in the wind, it might feel like you’re going to die. And we get to watch!
But the format of the questions isn’t actually so simple, at least where fairness is concerned. To determine the order in which they’ll answer the real question, first the contestants must answer a numbers question (something they’ll never get right, like, “how many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop?”). Whoever gets closest to the actual answer gets to go first in the real question, which will determine who flies away and who lives on to wear a fake jet pack in the next round.
There are three correct answers and one wrong answer to this next question. The one who goes first gets to pick an answer, so there’s a 75% chance he’s safe. Then #2 and #3 pick their answers, until the fourth player gets stuck with whichever answer is left, even if she knows a correct one, just because she said “a million” instead of “a billion” to an entirely different question a minute ago. She doesn’t get a choice. As a fan of all things fair and good in this world, this tiny detail completely infuriates me.
But look, here I am, thinking too hard about it again! As its name tells us, the questions on 101 Ways to Leave a Game Show are just a means to an end. Unfortunately, the exit methods are too silly and the stakes are non-existent, so all of the drama of the contestants crying and saying, “I want my mommy!” as they await their fate just feels fake. They’re scared, yes, but they don’t actually think anything dangerous is going to happen to them. They’re nervously laughing and smiling like camp kids about to get launched on the Blob.
Also, $50,000 just isn’t that much money anymore. Losing a shot at it because you didn’t know how many times a famous pervert got arrested just doesn’t sting that much. It’s like, “I didn’t win $50,000, but at least I got this free trip to Extreme Six Flags.” On 101 Ways to Leave a Game Show, everyone is a winner. Or nobody is. It’s hard to tell.
In conclusion, it’s a good show to mindlessly watch with your mom while you eat some sorbet on a hot summer night before bed. Use the 57 minutes you’re not paying attention (the other three are when people leave the game show) to catch up with her.
101 Ways to Leave a Game Show premieres tonight, Tuesday June 21, at 9pm on ABC.
(Image courtesy of ABC)