Saturday, October 14, 2006

TV: 1 vs. 100

• NBC asks: Are 100 heads better than one?

Genre: Game show
Logistics: NBC, 7 p.m. Friday for the remainder of its five-episode run
Host: Bob Saget
Verdict: &&&1/2

Quick: Which of the following shows doesn't revolve around FBI agents Monk, Criminal Minds or Without a Trace? That's the kind of pop culture trivia that repeatedly appears in NBC's new primetime quizzer, 1 vs. 100, another offering from Endomol (Deal or no Deal) and yet another import of an internationally successful game show format. Yes, this is another show in which a contestant faces a series of increasingly difficult questions while progressing up a money tree with the aid of a couple of "lifelines," but the hook here is the "mob": a group of 100 people that the primary contestant must eliminate. For each question the one answers correctly, she earns a progressively increasing dollar amount multiplied by the number of mob members who answer incorrectly. With questions centered on pop culture rather than general knowledge, it isn't so much about being the smartest person in the room as it is about having a sponge-like memory of pop culture tidbits. Although school teachers and Jeopardy! king Ken Jennings were among the mob on the premiere episode, it's no stretch that the brainiacs might get tripped up on an inane question about, to use another example from the premiere, where American Idol judge Paula Abdul normally sits. It can also produce wildly inconsistent results: On Friday's premiere, none of the first contestant's mob missed the first question, but 11 of the second contestant's mob missed the opener, yielding her a measly $1,100 for knocking them out. With better questions, however, the format has the potential to be more interesting than the rather one-note Deal or no Deal, which has gotten amazing mileage out of a game of probability and picking numbers. The 1 vs. 100 premiere never really yielded a tense moment when a player might win or lose a ton of money, but I can imagine some exciting scenarios when a player has knocked out most of the mob. As with Deal, the presentation is part of the appeal 1 vs. 100 seats the mob in a huge stadium-like wall with cool lighting. Also as in Deal, fun stats are thrown up on the screen from time to time (e.g., 84 percent of the remaining mob are college graduates). As for "comedian" Bob Saget (formerly of America's Funniest Home Videos) as host, he performed reasonably well in the premiere. Though he's no Howie Mandel, his game may end up being the better deal.

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