#107 - ESPN's Trivial Pursuit
Making you yearn to just play the damned board game instead

 

ESPN: (Week long special in September 2004)

Trivial Pursuit is the ultimate board game of knowledge.  Ever since its inception, millions flocked around and tried to fill their pie with colored wedges, learning and answering questions and have a great time.  In 1993, Wink Martindale and his production company made a TV version for the Family Channel.  It lasted two years, and it provided a good balance of the hard knowledge needed to play the game and variety of the types of rounds to make the game less boring than if there was a direct port of the board game itself.  Plus, for a cable TV original, the set look great.  The gold set with green chase lighting.  Not only that, the prizes weren't bad either.  $500 for the game, $1000 + A trip for the bonus, not bad for cable. 

So when ESPN announced that they would be making a new version of the game for their main channel, in place of Rome Is Burning, fans of the game and game show fans thought that a major cable network would handle this show well.  But then when we actually did see the show, then we found out that it was all handled just as well as Skip Bayless and Colin Cowherd handle not being annoying douchebags who don't know their ass from a hole in the ground.  Let's take a look at the week long mess that was ESPN's Trivial Pursuit.

 

Roger Lodge got the call-up to be the host of the show.  On Blind Date, he was a good presenter and host.  However, when he was on Trivial Pursuit, he just seemed a little ill-at-ease.  Maybe that's because he didn't have to worry about screwing up the readings of the prompter or he didn't have much to do on Blind Date.  This show had a bit more interactivity with real people instead of just his staff on the show.  He's a good question reader, but that's about it.  There isn't much else to say about Roger, so let's talk about something else, like the set.

The first Trivial Pursuit set had a really beautiful set.  Unfortunately, ESPN went really cheap.  They decided to house this show at their ESPNZONE place in New York.  And using the monitors they already had there, they just had two sets of chairs with a computer monitor.   Yeah, already we can see with the set that they really didn't care that much about this show, it was just pure filler just so Jim Rome could get healthy or they could just fill it with something else.  Not to mention the theme music was just generic background music with a really annoying Oh Yeah! added to it.  Heck, hearing that made me want to channel my inner Macho Man Randy Savage and elbow-drop whomever came up with that idea.

The game is ok, but nothing spectacular.  Lodge asks an either/or question and the teams buzz in with an answer.  If you get it right, your team gets control, get it wrong and the other team gets control.  By then, Lodge then reveals the categories, 4 dealing with sports and 2 dealing with Pop Culture. 

The team that's in control gets to pick a category and gets asked a question in said category with three choices.  If they answer correctly, then they gain the wedge and keep control.  If they get it wrong, control passes to the other team and if they need the wedge, they can answer the question.  The first team to fill up their wedge goes to the Money Round.  To be fair, this is an ok format, but it does have quite a few flaws.  Firstly, a team can buzz in correctly and then just blitz the entire board, without the other team even getting a sniff at playing the game.  Secondly, there's no prize for winning the game.  That just makes it that much cheaper.  Thirdly, the pace just dragged and dragged and dragged.  It felt like one round could take at least 10-12 minutes.

The Bonus Round was almost like the bonus round from the original TV version.  One person from each team starts with 6 categories and 45 seconds on the clock.  If the first person can get all 6 in 45, then they win $2,500.  If they can't, then they bring out the second person to finish what the first person left behind.  If they can with another 45 seconds, they win $2,500.  If not, they get $250 for each question answered right.  To me, that just smacks of cheapness.  Heck, they gave out $5,000 for winning the first game of Two Minute Drill.  Afterwards, if they do get the $2,500, they can opt to risk it for a $5,000 payday.  If they didn't, then they can risk whatever they won for a trip to Hawaii.  Heck, it's already cheaper than the original Family Channel version, where if you did win the bonus round it's $1,500 total and a trip, so that's about $3-4k for a total of $5k-6k total.  And that version happened 10 years prior and the network itself had a budget about 1/5th that of ESPN.  From a viewing standpoint, the clock they had was completely washed out by the background.  At least give it its own background, so we can at least see it at home. 

And if you thought that was bad.  Normally, on any other game show, if you won a game, you got to play again, unless it was specified in the rules.  Unfortunately, they took a page from the Pyramid rule of screwing up a good show in that in order to play another game, you had to have won the bonus game and the $2,500.  Then and only then you could play again.  To me, that rule just smacks of cheapness.  Bottom line, either have them play again for winning the game, or just have two new teams play each game.  Don't pull these types of strings to make them jump more hoops than normal.

Ugh, It only lasted 1 week and the show was sent to the depths of the ESPN Vault, only to be seen by Randy and Jason of Cheap Seats.  Which, aptly describes this show.  The set was cheap, the rules were cheap, the prizes were cheap and the entire production was cheap.  Trivial Pursuit would be revived in 2008 with a very unique format and nicer looking set, but failed to catch on and was axed a year later.  Roger Lodge would go on to host Camouflage for GSN in 2008, and would continue to be lame there as well.