Induction #251 - Sex Wars
The Battle of the Sexes...With a fraction of the budget and no creativity
Syndication: (October 2nd, 2000 - February 27th, 2001)
I've been doing these inductions for almost 10 years
and have seen lots of shows that have done one major thing wrong after another.
They would either use gameplay elements from other shows that did them better or
from shows that didn't work. They would either use a gimmick that is essentially
doomed to fail. They would try to compensate with two hosts that have zero
chemistry together. They would be so cheap to the point of a win equating less
than a hard days work around that time period. In the midst of a game show
renaissance in 2000, one show dared to ask the question that nobody cared to
know the answer to. Who is better: Men or Women? Well, let's take a look at a
miserable pile of secrets known as Sex Wars.
Sex Wars was a battle of the sexes game show that pitted two teams of three, divided by gender, in a battle of wits to see who was the better sex and that team will take home some cash. The first red flag is the Battle of the Sexes element as its main hook. Shows that have gone that route at this point have had a short lifespan, and that's with either solid gameplay mechanics or actually went deep into the matters. Those that played up the show with flimsy formats were sent packing quickly. Just look at All About The Opposite Sex, which lasted 9 weeks in 1990 and also The Smarter Sex, which lasted all of 2 weeks in 1995. Now one thing the show nailed was the set. It was beautiful to look at and it was functional too. I do wish they used the big monitor for more than the Sex Wars logo, but it's still good to look at.
The hosts for this go-round are JD Roth and Jennifer Cole. Readers of the site know that Jennifer Cole was also on the truly awful Strip Poker and JD Roth has hosted some great shows like Fun House, Zooventure and also is the man behind The Biggest Loser. This is now JD's 13th year doing game shows and he's really good at what he does. I like him on pretty much any show he's done, even shows like Double Up and Unaminous. Jennifer Cole...not so much. She's ok, but was upstaged and outclassed by JD. It reminded me of how Bill Anderson and Sarah Purcell were on The Better Sex. Bill was a fantastic host through and through while Sarah Purcell was rumored to be a bit of a diva behind the scenes and little more than mediocre on screen.
But then like most good looking fighting games that have great box art and reviews i.e. Rise of the Robots, it's all about the gameplay...and it's nothing original. Actually, it's a frankenstein's monster of game shows where they take gameplay elements from other shows wholesale and turn it into their own game. The first round is called Land Mine. In this round, each team is asked a question based on stereotypical likes of the opposite sex. Four possible answers are shown with three right answers and one wrong one. Each right answer is worth 5 points while getting all 3 is worth 20 points. If a team member picks the wrong answer i.e. the Land Mine, then the remaining points go to the other team.
While the round is functional, it's just derivative and the writing tries way too hard for the sexual innuendo...or if you can call it that because most of the time it's pretty direct. The whole mechanic was used on Trivia Trap, the Play The Percentags end game, Danger Price on The Price Is Right, and the most recent example in accordance to the date this show was on the air: Greed. It's not a bad mechanic, and it's far and away the best round of the entire show, but the unoriginality speaks volumes.
The next round is called The List. Stop me when you've heard this one before. The show asked a bunch of survey questions and got answers from guys and girls on their website. The teams must bid on how many they can name out of a set amount, usually up to 10. After a team is challenged to fill the list they list them off in order until they complete their bid or all three members are knocked out. The other team then has to come up with one answer to take the points in the pot. Each right answer adds 10 points to the pot. Yup, it's Family Feud with a sprinkling of Wipeout's challenge round. A problem with having 10 or so for a certain category means you'll get some answers that only the person answering the questions on the website would know or they would just make up some names.
After The List we have a generic buzz-in round where the questions are all answered with men or women and the subject matter is studies and opinion polls. Each correct answer is worth 10 points, but a wrong one gives 10 points to the other team. The last one in the round is the MCI Last Call being worth 25 points with the same rules applying as before. The buzz-in sounds have to be the most annoying thing about the show. I heard ones ranging from barking dogs and meowing cats on one episode to male and female screams and even the hair dryers and cordless drills that are used for the physical shape of the buzzers. Not only that, there is hardly any indication of what team buzzed in save for a little light on top of the signalers. The technology is there to have one side of the stage blink so that the audience at home could have some indication of what is going on.
The final round is the betting round. Here, teams select the category for the opposite side and that side has to answer the question correctly. If they do, then they win whatever they wagered. If wrong, they lose the wager and they must wager at least half of their points. The team with the most points at the end of the game wins and gets $10 a point...which lead to some interesting moments.
No, this isn't doctored or anything like that. That's the fancy chyron used for the mens lowest win at $100 and the ultimate low score for the women at $50. Back in 2000, that'll probably pay for a large pizza and a tip. The payouts are truly poor, especially split three ways. They aren't the lowest I've seen for a win, I mean we have had $1 wins on Jeopardy but that show had returning champions and I have an episode of Street Smarts from the same time period as Sex Wars with a $5 win. There, Frank Nicotero just pulls out an Honest Abe and pays the man. What makes those scores even more befuddling is that with a 0-0 tie, there is a tiebreaker question. The team that wins the tiebreaker gets 50 points...which means they get $500 to split. With that as a rule, it would behoove any team to try to go all in on the bet. Sure there is the matter of winning the game, but there is no returning champions here and I'd rather have a part of $500 than $50.
And that was Sex Wars. Despite a good looking set and competent hosts, the show ultimately fails with not having a single, solitary original thought put into its being. It's a vapid mish-mash of other succesful and short-lived formats and it is not cohesive whatsoever, not to mention some of the worst buzz-in sounds in recent game show memory. It was mainly overnight fodder for UPN and WB stations across the country, heck our local UPN station had it at 12:30am, and it never took off like Street Smarts did. Sex Wars would air its last original episode on February 27th, 2001 and rerun itself into cancellation until September. Many years later, episodes of Sex Wars would wind up on Hulu during its early days. What baffled me about these episodes is that you still had the sound effects of the graphics in there, but there were no graphics shown. My thinking is that they grabbed the studio masters from when it was shot instead of the final edit copies that we saw on TV back when it originally aired. I went to check to see if they were there a couple days ago and the show isn't on there anymore. Oh well, at least I got Letterkenny to watch.
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