Sunday, December 23, 2007

TV: ABC's Duel

• ABC tries another game show. Emphasis on 'tries.'

Finals air tonight, 8/7c
Host: ESPN's Mike Greenberg
Verdict: &&

By the time the announcer promoted a sponsor's soda containing ginseng and twice the caffeine during the premiere of ABC's Duel as the show went to commercial, I felt as if I were watching an SNL parody of today's big-money primetime game shows. With the dark set and faux drama of ominous music and endless pregnant pauses, it embodies all the clichés of post-Millionaire game shows. And, though I've said it a dozen times before, it must be repeated: Duel is yet another European import, proving again that there's not an original idea left for game shows in the U.S. entertainment industry. To ABC's credit, there's a mildly interesting premise at the heart of the game, in which two players face off with 10 chips in their possession. To advance, a player must place a chip next to the correct answer to a multiple-choice question. The twist is the contestant can place a chip next to one answer, all four possible answers, or somewhere in between to cover the educated guesses. Don't cover the correct answer or run out of chips and you're finished. The questions aren't particularly interesting but are at least tougher than average for today's game shows; I liked, "A mosquito can detect your presence from how far away?" The show's tournament format also mixes things up a bit compared to the familiar single-person Q&A, although it doesn't help that most players are winning one faceoff (and then breaking into sobs). Like Greed, the first Millionaire imitator, Duel feels like a bombastic wannabe, although I did find myself watching the whole episode.

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