Fri Oct 13th 2006 at 8:26 am ET
By Ray Richmond
LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) – There is a certain ingenious aspect to the new NBC game show “1 vs. 100,” and it is this: While the idea of having one contestant take on 100 people in a game of trivia skill sounds on paper like a hugely challenging undertaking, in truth it probably is 100 times less challenging than “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” because 1) the questions tend to be far less brainy, and 2) the competition ain’t all it is cracked up to be.
The 100 opponents, as it were, are really more like a studio audience packed with surfers, waitresses and models (and, yes, a few teachers and valedictorians, too). But here is a tip-off about the difficulty factor: One of the first questions surrounds a “pu-pu platter.” And if Bob Saget is your host, well, how compelling and genuinely tough can it be?
Actually, Saget received far too little credit for his work as the first host of “America’s Funniest Home Videos” and is a talented (and surprisingly blue) stand-up comedian. NBC’s thinking has to be: Hey, if we struck gold with Howie Mandel and “Deal or No Deal,” why not Saget? So here he is, mostly reining in his impulse to be the class clown but occasionally allowing his disdain for the whole exercise to peek through.
But to his credit, he brings this unremarkable five-week series perhaps more excitement and faux adrenaline than it deserves — though it already is a hit overseas, of course, so maybe NBC is onto something again.
Here is what’s going down on “1 vs. 100″: A single player faces down 100 people. All of them are asked to answer the same trivia question. If the player gets it right, he or she gathers an escalating cash value for each member of the 100 who got it wrong ($100 apiece in Round 1, $1,000 in Round 2, $2,000 in Round 3 and so on). The player can either keep the dough or risk losing it all by continuing on to the next round. Each time a member of “the Mob” — the endearing term given to the 100 — misses a question, that person is eliminated. The player also has an opportunity to use the equivalent of two “lifelines” to inquire about a given multiple-choice question. There ultimately is a $1 million pot if the contestant can make it that far. But once a question is missed, the remaining members of the Mob split the player’s winnings.
This is not a terrible game, and indeed it carries the intriguing subplot of having the Mob members first rooting for the player to accrue cash and then snuff him or her out to claim the winnings. And to show that producer Endemol USA isn’t going to make this a battle of the eggheads, the first contestant is a bouncer. Standing in the way of anyone with designs on taking home $1 million, incidentally, is none other than Ken Jennings, the 74-time champion on “Jeopardy!” who appears bored each time the camera zeroes in on him.
Jennings aside, this also doesn’t feel like the most intellectual of exercises. Consider this question: “If the Venus de Milo statue came to life, which would she have the most trouble doing? A) Using a Stairmaster, B) Playing Frisbee, C) Lipsynching.” Seven of the Mobmates got that one wrong, which again proves there is no attempt to exclude the breathtakingly uninformed.
Not that “1 vs. 100″ is doomed to failure. Not at a time when “Deal” can sprout into an instant phenomenon. And while European success hardly makes for a crossover guarantee, this one feels enough like “Millionaire” to give it a decent shot at keeping the “Deal” audience Fridays even with Saget running the show rather than Regis Philbin.