Saturday, January 24, 2009

I sometimes get angry about stuff. This, I freely admit. And I also know that sometimes, what I get angry about isn't the most significant stuff in the world. The New York Times magazine section consistently gets under my skin, but this evening, I feel like I have to say a few words about something which really annoys me -- Deal or No Deal.

No I have to start by saying that I have been a fan of Howie Mandel for a long time (yes...pre-St. Elsewhere). His standup was great and his ability to think on his feet and work with his crowd was always a joy to behold. And I'm willing to ignore the stories I hear about his germ issues, and ignore the bald thing. But has the whole world gone crazy? This show is unbelievably dumb.

The general idea is that the contestant chooses a case from among a bunch of similar briefcases, and then starts to choose other cases which get opened, revealing a variety of dollar amounts. The hope is that the initial case chosen has a large sum in it and as he eliminates other values, the "banker" makes offers to buy his reserved case to keep him from continuing to play. The offers are based in the remaining values and the odds that a certain amount will be won ultimately.  The bottom line is that the contestant is having money thrown at him and he simply has to think he is lucky, and get lucky, if he wants to be greedy.

No questions, no tasks...just money and pure greed (read: foolhardiness). This is not a game show. This is a contestant being encouraged by people to pick certain numbers as if anyone had any better sense of which ones have particular values within. The notion of "random" is to be outfoxed by logic...dumb.

This is not the first game to be devoid of any skill. The newer version of Press Your Luck has, apparently, eliminated the trivia component and players are simply calling out "Stop" and hoping that they end on a money square (and heaven forbid they figure out the repeating timing and guarantee their success...that's cheating in a game which should not allow any skill). Let's Make a Deal was also about pure luck. Did you happen to pack 50 paper clips before you left the house/ Is there a donkey in the box or do you want what's behind door number 6? But at least there people had to dress up like idiots and often were asked to present the paperclips, felt tip pens or sliver dollars as an entree into the rest of the game.

But this game is pure luck masquerading as something else. The banker's offers are mathematically figured and no one players odds are even any better than any other's. This is just sheer stupidity -- suddenly, $165,000 isn't enough because there are three cases on the board which are worth more. Pure, stupid greed and the false sense that luck can be shifted or that deciding to keep guessing is some version of bravery. It makes me mad that people can watch this show and think that rooting and cheering means anything, or that a contestant can be "good" at this. I really hate this show.

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