AUTHOR’S NOTE: This blog post includes information about a television program that some readers of this blog post may have not watched yet. Additionally, information about the television program that is the subject of this blog post is based on an aired pilot episode of the series; information about the format of future episodes of the series may differ from the format of the aired pilot episode. Furthermore, the pilot episode may have not aired on all NBC affiliates in the United States, although the NBC affiliate in my area of the country (WAND-TV) did air the pilot episode.
Some game show ideas are bad. Some game show ideas are good, but not well executed. Then there’s game show ideas that are rip-offs of other game shows or elements of other game shows.
NBC’s latest attempt at a primetime game show is called The Wall, which aired its pilot episode last night, with the series premiere proper scheduled for next month. The show gets its name from a giant wall with pegs on it that is designed to allow an object to drop between the pegs into one of multiple slots. I think I remember this concept from another game show…
The central part of the game is not much more than a blatant ripoff of Plinko, a longtime pricing game that appears frequently on the CBS game show The Price is Right (TPiR). However, there are some key differences between The Wall and Plinko…whereas Plinko’s only major secondary element is a small-item pricing segment, The Wall has multiple and completely different secondary elements, including trivia questions and an isolation chamber.
The Wall is played by a couple working as a team, and the game has four rounds (although the fourth round is effectively an extension of each the first three rounds):
- The first round involves either member of the couple having to hit a button corresponding to one of two possible answers to a trivia question. If they guess correctly before the first of three balls falls into any slot at the bottom of the wall, the total cash amount associated with each slot with a ball in it is added to the couple’s bank. If they guess incorrectly or fail to lock in an answer before the first of three balls falls into any slot at the bottom of the wall, the total cash amount associated with each slot without a ball in it is removed from the couple’s bank. If the couple has a positive amount of money in the bank, the couple goes on to the second round. If the couple were to have a negative amount of money in the bank after the first round, the game ends and the couple wins nothing.
- The second and third rounds play in a similar manner with a few differences. One of the members of the couple go to an isolation chamber and are responsible for answering multiple-choice trivia questions with three (second round) or four (third round possible answers, while the other contestant is responsible for making decisions about what slot at the top of the wall to drop red (two + one for each incorrect trivia answer in second round, four + one for each incorrect trivia answer in third round) or green (two + one for each correct trivia answer in second round, four + one for each correct trivia answer in third round) balls from. The two (second round) and four (third round) automatic red balls must be dropped from the same slots at the top of the wall as the automatic green balls were dropped from at the start of the round in question. Additionally, the contestant not in the isolation chamber has the option of playing two balls from the same slot of the top of the wall on the second trivia question of the second and third rounds, as well as the option of playing three balls from the same slot of the top of the wall on the third trivia question of the second and third rounds; the decision must be made prior to the trivia question being asked to the contestant in the isolation chamber. Wherever a red ball lands results in money being removed from the couple’s bank, and wherever a green ball lands results in money being added to the couple’s bank. However, if a red ball lands in a slot worth more money than what is in the couple’s bank, the couple’s bank goes to $0, not to a negative dollar amount (this happened once on the aired pilot episode, at the end of the second round). The second-from-the-right slot at the bottom of the wall is valued at $250,000 (second round) and at $1,000,000 (third round)
- The fourth round does not involve the use of the wall, but, instead, involves a decision that the contestant in the isolation chamber must make involving a contract. A contract is offered to the contestant in the isolation chamber, and the contestant in the isolation chamber has the option of either signing the contract or ripping the contract up. The contestant in the isolation chamber is not told how many questions he/she answered correctly in the second and third rounds, nor is the contestant in the isolation chamber told how much money is in the bank after the third round. If the contract is signed, the couple wins the amount of money in the bank after the first round, plus $20,000 for each correctly-answered trivia question in the second and third rounds. If the contract is ripped up, the couple wins the amount of money in the bank after the third round, if there is any money in the bank after the third round.
Unfortunately, there are several major cracks in the The Wall:
- As I mentioned earlier, the centerpiece of the game is a blatant ripoff of Plinko from TPiR. I’m not an attorney, but it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if FremantleMedia (the company that produces TPiR for CBS) were to sue NBC and the producers of The Wall (which include host Chris Hardwick and professional basketball player LeBron James, among others).
- The show appeared to lack a traditional game show announcer; as a result, Hardwick announced himself as the host at the start of the show (normally, game show hosts are introduced at the start of an episode by an off-camera announcer), however, the crowd cheering Hardwick’s entrance drowned out Hardwick introducing himself to the television audience.
- The trivia questions are very easy for a show where it is possible for a couple to win $12,000,000 in cash.
- It would be possible for a couple to answer every single trivia question correctly and win absolutely nothing, and it would also be possible for a couple to win nearly a million dollars with as few as two correct trivia answers (one in the first round, and one in the third round).
Now, there have been far worse game shows that have aired on American television (such as this one) than The Wall, but it looks like NBC might be tearing down The Wall sooner than later.