Trivial Pursuits At last a game requiring a few brains 1 vs 100
Here's why I'm rooting for 1 vs. 100
(Friday, 8 pm/ET), NBC's latest game-show import, to catch on, even modestly.
I happen to be among the minority that's completely immune to the dubious charms of NBC's ubiquitous Deal or No Deal — or, as I tend to call it, "that stupid briefcase show." Even if it weren't so proud of its mindlessness, bragging that it takes no skill to play, I find the entire excruciating exercise as empty as many of those briefcases.
Now the same producers have taken Deal's format of wagering against ever-escalating stakes, and wedded it to a trivia-based rip-off of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. The concept is simple yet effective: A single contestant faces a "mob" of 100 people sitting against a colorful wall, all answering trivia questions that start easy but get harder, like on Millionaire. Some of the mob are ringers, like game-show champ Ken Jennings. (When I saw him up on the wall, my inner Jeopardy! nerd felt right at home.) For every opponent the contestant knocks out, the kitty grows exponentially, up to $1 million. But if the player misses a question, it's over, and the remaining mob splits the loot.
As the wisecracking host, Bob Saget is a bit smarmy, though way less icky than Deal's Howie Mandel. The game could move faster — Jennings looked sheepish, and a bit bored, in his box — but at least it doesn't stall (not yet) for the host to bribe the contestant to quit. Playing 1 vs. 100 takes more than guts. It requires at least a little bit of brains.
If NBC must use game shows as spackle to fill holes in its schedule, it could do worse. It already has.
Smooth sailing? Not on this ship. "She'll float till she sinks," warns a steward aboard a 19th-century warship turned creaky, leaky passenger vessel. The unsteady craft transports fascinating characters To the Ends of the Earth in a thrilling, grueling Masterpiece Theatre miniseries based on William Golding's 1980s trilogy. (Episodes air Oct. 22, 29 and Nov. 5; check listings.)
As the genre dictates, this self-discovery, though more graphic and less sentimental than most, focuses on callow aristocrat Edmund Talbot (Benedict Cumberbatch). Typical of the story's tough-minded approach, when Talbot falls in love, his reckless ardor is partly due to a blow to the head. (By journey's end, the passengers are as battered as the ship.)
Injury, illness and other calamities pepper this grand yet intimately scaled adventure. Though it's hardly a pleasure cruise, I hated to see it end.