Sunday, May 31, 2015

Who Asked?

I watched all seven episodes--I think that's all--of 500 Questions, the Mark Burnett-produced game show which has been on ABC every night for a week.  It didn't exactly burn up the ratings, so we may not see it again. (So why am I reviewing it?)  It's the kind of game show I like--some razzmatazz, but mostly questions, as the title implies.  It's a game of knowledge, not luck.

500 Questions is simplicity itself.  It's the job of the contestant to get through 500 questions without ever getting three wrong in a row.  Since no one came close, I'm not entirely sure what happens when that plateau is achieved.  The game ends?  For all time?

There's also a challenger, standing nearby, ready to take the place of the contestant.  All potential contestants are certified "geniuses," and their qualifications for the title are listed when they first appear (in what strikes me as the most embarrassing part of the show).

The contestant has ten seconds to answer each question, each worth a thousand dollars.  The contestant can give as many answers as time allows, but the money is won only if the first answer is correct. The game goes by 50-question boards, each featuring ten categories with five questions.  The contestant only collects winnings after going through all fifty questions.

Most question are regular ones, but there are a few exceptions. There are Battle questions, where the contestant and challenger face off--the contestant decides who goes first.  The question allows for several answers, and the two go back and forth until one can't give a correct response in five seconds, or the two have exhausted the category (which is a tie, not right or wrong for the contestant).  There are Triple Threat questions, with three answers--worth three thousand, but the contestant has to get them all.  And there are Top Ten Challenge questions that require five out of a possible ten correct answers in fifteen seconds.  Before the question is revealed, the contestant can hand if off to the challenger--if the challenger fails, it's as if the contestant got it right.

While the main thing is simply to know as many answers as possible, there is some strategy, particularly in the how the contestant picks the categories.  Most players, presumably, have strong and weak subjects, so the trick is to go back and forth, avoiding too many tricky questions in a row.  Also, if the contestant gets two wrong in a row, the challenger gets to pick the next category, so it may be a good thing not to signal your weakness if possible.

The questions are wide-ranging and, I'd say, approximately mid-range Jeopardy! level.  I like the host, British journalist Richard Quest, who keeps things moving and doesn't mock the players. (Not to name and names, but he also doesn't act like he knows all the answers.)

In a way, the game is exhausting, since it's hard not to get involved, wondering how you'd do if you were in it.  How would I have done?  Well, it was rare I couldn't answer three in a row, but a lot of it is luck of the draw.  Getting through fifty would have been tough.


Anonymous Denver Guy said...

How much do you enjoy SNL's Celebrity Jeo[ardy sketches?

8:23 AM, June 02, 2015  
Blogger LAGuy said...

An odd question. I guess they're okay, though parodies of game shows, not to mention impressions of celebrities, are among the lowest forms of comedy.

9:34 AM, June 02, 2015  
Anonymous Denver Guy said...

Well, I detected a hint of disparagement of Trebek (does he act like he knew the answer to the questions without readingthe card?). I generally laugh at Will Ferrell's take of a flabergasted Trebek.

8:55 AM, June 03, 2015  
Blogger LAGuy said...

I like Will Ferrell's Trebek, though in the SNL sketch, far from the imperious host he's sometimes portrayed as, he's the put upon voice of sanity.

And Yes, Trebek is host who seems to act like he knows the answers.

10:35 AM, June 03, 2015  
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