Monday, December 19, 2005

Deal... or No Deal?

Tonight began yet another primetime gameshow that we stole from the Brits. The show, Deal or No Deal, is being run as a primetime mini-series-type special that will run each night this week at 8pm on NBC. Reminds me of the original schedule of Who Wants to be a Millionare, before they started running it every night for a month, and then eventually even syndicated it, until people got so sick of it they run away.

I digress... so Deal or No Deal. The premise of this show is so ridiculously simple I feel like I'm sitting back in my STAT 394 class determining the probability and expected value of each decision. Once you filter out all the lights, glitz, and strategically placed commercial breaks, you're left with this:

1) There are 26 numbered briefcases, each containing a value from $.01 to $1,000,000.
2) The contestant selects one of the briefcases.
3) The contestant then selects the remaining briefcases one-by-one, which are opened to reveal the values contained within.
4) At various points throughout the process, the contestant is made an offer to sell the briefcase they selected for a specified amount of money. If they take the offer (Deal) the game is over, otherwise (No Deal) the game continues until they either take a Deal or all of the remaining cases are opened.

That's all there is to it. The fascinating part (to me at least) is how "The Bank" a.k.a. the man upstairs with a yellow legal pad who is supposedly making the offers, though I consider it far more likely that a computer is making all of the calculations, is actually coming up with his offers. Now, I didn't take too close of a look at the values being offered at various points, but I'm pretty sure they're just offering the expected value of their selected briefcase based on the values remaining. For example, when the contestant tonight was down to just 2 briefcases (their own, and one other) the two remaining values were $50,000 and $500. So what is the EV of the case she selected? (50000+500)/2 = 25250. And what was she offered? $25,000 even. Sounds about right to me.

How long is this going to last? My guess is probably, oh... about 5 episodes. :) Why? Because the show has several fatal flaws that are the curse of all bad gameshows:

1) The audience can't play along. Well, they CAN, but really, it's about as much fun as when your friend goes "I'm thinking of a number between 1 and 26". "Oooh... sorry, wrong."
2) B-list celebrity turned game show host. The host of this show is Howie Mandel. Name one thing he's done in the past 10 years... yeah, that's what I thought. Now the same might have been said about Regis when he first took on the role as host of Millionaire... but he proved himself nicely... it helps that people knew who he was and he's a likable enough guy. Howie reminds me of when they got John McEnroe to host that failed attempt at a game show called "The Chair" where people were answering trivia questions while strapped into a chair and they lost if their heart rate went up too much. Can we say ridiculous premise?
3) Lack of variety. After about 5 episodes of this, every episode will start to feel the same. It's not like they can change up the questions, or have new celebrity guests, or anything different. See reason #1... how many times can you play "I'm thinking of a number" before it gets old... oh yeah, maybe twice. 'Nuff said.

Now that I've devoted more time than this show deserves, I have a question... what's the deal with America stealing all of our gameshows from the British? Are we not creative enough to create our own incredibly ridiculous premises and pretend to give away exorbitant amounts of money, but in reality give away nothing more than the slimmest chance of winning anything substantial? I have one thing to say: No Deal.

1 comment:

bdleaf said...

Well, this is why I don't watch tv anymore. I hate reality shows, and I can tolerate game shows, but I feel like the fine line between the two have been smeared. I'll stick with re-runs of Star Trek when I do happen to have time to turn on the telly.