#157 - Take It All
NBC (December 2012)
The 2012-2013 TV Season when it comes to game shows could be summed up in just one sentence: What's old is new again. It was the year of formats being revived and reused ad nauseum. Shows like The Pyramid, Whose Line Is It Anyway, Whodunit and Minute To Win It with Apolo Anton Ohno were great revivals or a great revamp of a show that didn't get its just due, but they were drowned out by a bunch of rehashed formats or variants of formats that just made everybody cringe. Shows like The Choice just replaced the music from the voice with a generic dating show and Oh Sit was Wipeout mixed with musical chairs and with worse hosting. So when the time arose for the Wayneys to be selected, it was no shock that the four shows put on the ballot were either retreads of old formats from days gone by (literally and figuratively). The fifth one was Khloe Khardashian hosting The X Factor, but that's a retread of the talentless hack hosting a talent show trope. The winner was one that admittedly didn't make me mad, because it didn't exploit kids, torture anybody or was a stupid insipid dating show that was done better years ago. This one was a show that had been hyped as "The Ultimate White Elephant Gift Exchange". Yet, after watching, the white elephant was nothing more than a terrible show with one of the worst game play mechanics being used since 2002 worldwide. I bring you the winner: Take It All
We start things off with the set. The set itself has nothing going for it. It's just five podiums and a gigantic video board behind them with a white floor that hides away the 10 Envelopes with cash in them. I'll explain that part later. The wall behind him shows off the prizes, the amount the prize is worth and whether the contestants decide to keep mine or take it all. While it serves a purpose, it's nothing more than heartless generic primetime faire that we had in the past with Amnesia. I also want to mention that the production quality of this show leaves something to be desired. Many times you see horrible edits when it comes to reactions, boom mics in the camera shots, and disconnecting post-production audio splices. I remember watching a video of Shop Til You Drop on YouTube and they had JD Roberto reread a few questions during a break on the set. When the actual episode aired, you couldn't tell the difference if he had to reread questions or not. Here, you clearly could tell that Howie's lines are redone in a post production booth with a better mic. It's really lazy production to say "We'll fix it in post" and that's what they did a lot here.
For host, we are given Howie Mandel, who had returned to the peacock network after a couple years off after Howie Does It and Deal Or No Deal went off the air to become a judge on America's Got Talent when he replaced David Hasselhoff. Here, Howie Mandel makes his return to hosting and to be quite honest, does a really damned good job. Howie's main gift to hosting is playing emotion. He plays those cards very well on Deal or No Deal, on America's Got Talent as a judge and he does it here. Needless to say he's the lone bright spot on this show. It should also be noted that he is the shows producer as well. We encountered this problem before with Wendy Williams in Love Triangle. I'll say that this isn't as shamelessly pandering as Love Triangle, but it's still not that great.
The game itself....well, it's the White Elephant game made huge. Unfortunately for the person who made this game i.e. Howie himself, nobody enjoys watching or even participating in these things. I was involved in one in the fourth grade, and I walked away with a big crayon piggy bank, and that's because I left halfway through to take part in a counseling session. I would have done anything else than do that again. But back to the game. The first contestant comes out to play...
...but before we do that, we get these lame pre-production videos that basically tells us what they are going to do. This kills any feeling we'll have to them. You'll get one that is genuine, but the rest you want to punch in the face with a Doctor Doom gauntlet for being overly fake or just downright unlikeable.
Now back to the game. The first contestant picks a package from the Dream Screen labeled 1-5, or a different color depending on the episode. Whatever they pick is what they take with them to their podium. Then another contestant comes out and decides if they want to take player one's prize, or take one of the remaining prizes from the dream screen. If they decide to take a players prize, the player who's prize is being taken, can lock out that prize from being taken. The player can only use this option once for the entire show. After all five players have a prize, the person that's stuck with the least expensive prize is booted out of the game and their prize is sent back to the warehouse so the producers can play with them. This is about 5 minutes worth of game play stretched horribly to about 17 minutes thanks to the above pre-production videos and long drawn out reveals at the end by Howie.
Another big knock about the show is the prizes themselves. Seriously, how many of these prizes are things that people want? I can understand a NBA Package or a Jaguar as things people would want, but when you offer up stuff like a custom built golf cart in the shape of a Mercedes-Benz, a tree lodge (i.e. a Tree House for upper class kids), personal submarines and Jet Packs that only take you high and fast in water, you just groan. It's like the prizes off of the Sale of the Century fame game board, but with 100 times the budget and worse. The process repeats twice with higher stakes each time and we go to the prize fight.
The Final Round is called The Prize Fight. I'm not going to mess around here, it's the terrible Prisoner's Dilemma I railed against when I did Golden Balls a few months ago on this site. I'm not going to repeat myself. If you want to read my feelings about that mechanic, read it over there. The only difference is that before the game, each contestant selects an envelope with a money amount inside. If anybody gets the prizes, they get the money amount they chose or both, if they take away everything from the game.
Naturally though, since the amount of prizes total was usually in excess of over $400,000 in cash and prizes, they would take it all and only about 2-3 people would be happy per episode, with those being either the person taking it all and their family. If nobody won anything, the producers are the happiest of them all because they don't have to pay out a dime to the contestants. Tim Connolly of Ineligible Productions had the premise of this end game correct when thrashing the show in his 20 Worst Game Shows of the past 10 Years section of his blog (or bloog, and while you're there, read the entire list. It's very well done and spot on about a lot of it.) when he said, "Take It All, a show that took one of the most fundamentally flawed tropes of the genre to a level it had never attained before, and hopefully never will again."
The show sparked controversy about glorifying greed, especially with the element of stealing away peoples prizes they had grabbed. Personally, it's a weak controversy, since that was the name of the game in the first place. Howie defended himself and his show on Entertainment Tonight by claiming it was "a mirror to who people are, but I don't know if we're showcasing greed or gamesmanship." He would go on, "Is it worse to see somebody Take It All on my show, or is it worse to have a friendly card game every Tuesday night where you bluff and take your relatives' money? These are two consenting adults who came in with nothing and are fully ready to play a game. Is that the perfect world? Or is the perfect world wanting to win?" Either way, people tuned out by the droves and after it ran its original 6 episode run, it got taken away by the bottomless pit of primetime failures, never to be seen again.
While the rest of the shows that were up for voting could be deemed worse than Take It All, Take It All represents everything that is wrong with primetime game shows. It's "game" is extremely hollow and could be better fitted into a 30 minute format rather than an hour, a set that's just too box standard for its own good, contestants about as likeable as MRSA and the ending that just makes the first 56 minutes of the show pointless, especially when both players decide to take it all and make everybody sad during the Christmas season. That's why the fans voted the way they did and that's why this show was called the worst of 2012-2013 by both Game Show News Net and the fans of Game Show Garbage. May this season be much better, because it could always get worse.
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