Million Second Quiz: 8p.m. Eastern this and next week on NBC
Since 1999, when Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? made it’s way across the pond to America, we have seen a fundamental shift in the way that the game show has been presented over the airwaves. Once built to be cheap staples of daytime (often morning) television, the genre often is now home to seven-digit grand prizes, prime-time specials, and typically treated closer to sporting events with cutaway interviews. No network has leaned harder on the genre since its’ revival than NBC, which has had considerable success with Deal or No Deal, 1 vs. 100, and The Weakest Link. It is with those three shows in mind that they launch their new big money quizzer: Million Second Quiz
Million Second Quiz is a test of both general knowledge and endurance. One lucky contestant is placed in the money chair inside a giant hourglass set in Manhattan’s Rockerfeller Center. Here, the contestant earns $10 for every second they survive in the chair while being bombarded by questions and challenges from across the country. Once unseated from they money chair, they spend time in winner’s row, hoping that their winnings will hold out. Once the clock hits zero (estimated to be sometime next Friday afternoon), the top four will battle it out for the top cash prize. Hosting the proceedings is veteran emcee Ryan Seacrest (Click, Wild Animal Games, Mid-days on Z-100, he also did some show on Fox for a few years but I don’t think anyone’s ever heard of it).
The quiz battles are interesting, mixing elements of the ABC show Duel, the dare mechanics from Double Dare (though sadly not the physical challenges), and the speed round mechanics of just about hard quizzer ever (albeit with increasing point values as the battle goes on). Seacrest does a surprisingly strong job handling the question reader side of the show, nimbly adapting between asking questions, kicking to a video screen for video questions, and dealing with the Doubler (which admittedly was not explained before the first bout) and even managing to interrupt a battle for commercials (right before the big final third).
In between these bouts, we get to look in on the various larger aspects of the Million Second Quiz, including meeting the “line jumper” a strong performing online player whom is flown in to play for the money chair. We also check in on Winner’s Row, where the four top performing players try to survive long enough to make it to the final battle for the big prize. We also learn about “the winner’s defense”, where the winner’s circle send of their own in a risk to add to their total. If the Winner fails however, they are out of the game.
If there is one glaring issue with the show, it’s the relentless cross promotion that occurs during the course of the episode. Our winner’s row is sponsored by Subway. Our line jumper gets an interview on NBC’s Today Show. We get guest appearances by Blake Shelton of The Voice and Heidi Klum of America’s Got Talent. Multiple questions referenced NBC’s two football games over the past week. While I get that promotion has long been a part of the show, it feels very blunt and inelegant on Million Second Quiz.
The Final Verdict: It’s a large expansive game with it’s tentacles everywhere, and I think I can safely say that Million Second Quiz is the next evolution of one of television’s oldest formats, mixing truly interactive at home play seamlessly with the on-air show. Seacrest has the chops to host, the format is both very simple and strategically deep, and the format allows for the tension to mount over the course of the game. Watch it, it’s a solid event show and a great way to spend the 8 p.m. hour before the fall season kicks into full gear.