Saturday, April 22, 2006

TV: I've Got a Secret

Genre: Game show
Logistics: GSN, 10:30 p.m. Central, weekdays
Verdict: &&&&

Couch critics will be tempted to carve the knives over this one, but let's don't. For a network that told its core audience to go to hell in recent years with offerings like Extreme Dodgeball, documentaries about people like Tonya Harding and Arnold Schwarzenegger, and reruns of The Amazing Race, this signals a step back to reality (mercifully not The Amazing Race kind). Not only is it a traditional panel game show, but it also embraces its retro appeal in the graphics and attractive Password-influenced set, and it's the first new game show offering from the network in quite some time. It's a remake of the Goodson-Todman classic that was indebted to What's My Line? and originally ran for 15 years beginning in 1952. A panel of four celebrities asks a series of "yes" and "no" questions within the allotted time to try to zero in on the guest's secret, and it's more about the humor in getting there than it is the end result. In this version, you get a fair amount of "I can break pencils with my butt" and "My breasts dance to music" type secrets. Host Bil Dwyer is comfortable and capable at the helm, but the Z-list celebrity panel (Suzanne Westenhoefer, Frank DeCaro, Jermaine Taylor and Billy Bean, a former baseball player who is emerging as the best inquisitor) may not do much to pull in the average channel surfer. Nevertheless, it's a very watchable and often funny half hour, and it's no secret that the GSN schedule should be peppered with more low-budget originals such as this rather than the likes of dodgeball and off-topic documentaries.

•• UPDATE 5/26/06 •• With hindsight, this series gets bumped up a full medal. The celebrity panel may not be well known, but they are smart and witty and play the game well. Bill Dwyer is an engaging host, and the bonafide celebrity guest appearances (George Wendt, Phyllis Diller) have been a nice bonus. The way the set and music wallow in retro chic is icing on the cake.

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