In this wildly expensive failure, it’s possible to see so many of NBC’s flaws, all in the same package. And outside of the effort to make people excited about the show, there is no heart to it whatsoever. Think about it: In spite of the ridiculous editing and manipulation that happens behind the scenes at shows like Big Brother, Deal Or No Deal, or Project Runway, there is a unique game element that each show is about. NBC is perfecting the expensive, rigidly controlled belly flop, and everyone else is changing the channel.For some reason, rather than focus on making quality programming, NBC is in the business of trying to be “America’s Network,” or something like that. Worst of all, though, is that Million Second Quiz has quiet disdain for its viewers.There’s this shrill, upbeat tone of positivity around the Million Second Quiz—“largest prize in gameshow history,” “America is playing along at home,” “everyone wants to be in the money chair,” “thousands of fans lined up outside the hourglass! There’s the assumption that this kind of lowbrow pandering shininess is all that the viewing public is looking for, a confidence in the lowest common denominator as being more than enough to net tens of millions of fans.
It’s not interesting, it’s confusing, and it reeks of desperation.
In its efforts to be hip, digital, and savvy, NBC has created a show that practically yells “I’m hip, digital, and savvy! is, in no particular order: 24-hour, staged live, and hosted by Ryan Seacrest in a giant hourglass.
It puts some players under constant surveillance and makes them answer questions against each other all night.
It is a trivia quiz, an audience-participation show, and a program that simultaneously can be viewed online or in an app. It is an endeavor so saturated with product placement that it reads like a commercial. On the first night of viewing, the companion app crashed; as ratings steadily declined last week, execs at NBC almost cast Jeopardy!
(It is “powered” by Subway.) The show is trying too hard. In its efforts to respond to the demands of the viewing public, it has created something that responds to none of the demands of the viewing public. champion Ken Jennings, then pulled him at the last minute.
It’s such a wrongheaded, sloppy approach to a nuanced problem that it would be pathetic if it weren’t so obviously careless. The show’s dynamic interactive page, encouraging viewers to participate in various different elements of the game, also pipes in tweets with relevant hashtags.
At publication time, most of those tweets were expressing confusion, disappointment, or frustration with the show.
There might be more to say about the show, but it almost doesn’t matter. Million Second Quiz is just a hyped show about hype.
Inane as it is, it’s not mean-spirited, just bizarre. Every moment is designed to be “tweetable” by studio execs who are cynical about social media and see it merely as something they have to conquer or pander to.
And the show is so deeply flawed and so universally unpopular that it is not going to remain in anyone’s memory for long. Everything is glitzy and soaked in lens flare, when it’s not surrounded by a ticker-tape of LED lights. There are videos online that let you watch clips of the “charged” moments, as if even Million Second Quiz understands how silly the endless 10-day ordeal is.
But the real story here isn’t about the show, it’s about the network. But this language is something you expect out of television commercials, not 10 days of primetime programming. Even technical difficulties on the set have plagued the show, underscoring just how poorly thought out this whole enterprise is.