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No Big "Deal"

So, I was sitting in the airport in Aspen, waiting for the plane that would take me back to Los Angeles, when what comes on CNBC? Deal or No Deal, of all things. Everyone who reads this blog knows of my confusion about this show. But, desperate to understand what thrall Howie Mandel and a bunch of silver briefcases seem to hold on viewers, I decided to watch. (Plus I couldn't get the airline staff to change the channel.)

Purportedly an "international sensation," Deal or No Deal is one hell of a bizarre show. Basically, the rules are this: a contestant chooses one of 26 numbered briefcases, which may contain dollar amounts between $.01 and $1,000,000. Their selection remains closed on their podium. Still with me? In each round, the contestant then chooses a certain number of other briefcases(starting with five), each of which is opened to reveal a dollar amount which is then removed from the board (because the original suitcase could not contain those amounts). At the end of each round, the mysterious "banker" calls on a phone, which follically-challenged host Howie Mandel (?) answers as the stage goes shockingly red. The banker offers an amount of money to "buy" the original briefcase, based on the likelihood of how high that dollar amount might be. The contestant can choose "deal" or "no deal" (hence the clever name). If they choose "deal," then they accept the banker's offer and either made a good decision (if the money in the chosen briefcase was lower than the offer) or a bad one (if it were higher). If they choose "no deal," then they can choose another briefcase or three to open.

Sound confusing? It is.

It's also the first gameshow that I can think of that is based purely on luck. There's no skill or intelligence needed to win Deal or No Deal, other than maybe the ability to count up to 26 and deal with Howie Mandel's lame jokes. Who Wants to be a Millionaire, I get. The Weakest Link with its overly cruel British host Anne Robinson, I get. But Deal or No Deal, with its endless briefcases and forced suspense, is just a ghastly display of how far gameshows have sunk. Is it a gambling show? Perhaps. Perhaps we at home are expected to live vicariously through these people as they maybe, just maybe, might walk away with a cool million if they hold instead of folding.

Is it meant to be enciting and dramatic, like roulette or blackjack? (I think that's the intent, anyway.) While every now and then a ticker with the percentages may pop up on screen telling the audience at home the chances of $1M being contained in the briefcase, perhaps in an attempt to make us think that there is something akin to Vegas oddsmanship going on here, in the end, Deal or No Deal is just about some sap randomly picking numbered briefcases, which are then opened by comely female models a la Wheel of Fortune's letter-turner Vanna White.

To that I say: no deal.

What’s On Tonight

8 pm: Survivor: Panama--Exile Island (CBS); The Biggest Loser (NBC); One Tree Hill (WB); George Lopez/Freddie (ABC); Bones (FOX); America's Next Top Model (UPN)

9 pm: Criminal Minds (CBS); Law & Order (NBC); Beauty & the Geek (WB); Lost (ABC); American Idol/The Loop (FOX); Veronica Mars (UPN)

10 pm: CSI: New York (CBS); Law & Order (NBC); Invasion (ABC)

What I’ll Be Watching

9 pm: Veronica Mars.

Praise Jesus, Vishnu, and whomever you like. Veronica Mars is finally back with new episodes, after a painfully long hiatus. In tonight's episode ("Versatile Toppings"), Veronica has to uncover a blackmailer who is extorting money from in-the-closet teens and threatens to out them on an online bulletin board. Guest starring Laguna Beach's Kristin Cavallari, if you're into that sort of thing. Meanwhile, will we inch closer to solving any of the many mysteries of the season? For the love of god, Rob Thomas, give us some clue to the solution of the bus crash mystery. Or at least some more Cassidy/Mac love.

Thankfully, Lost is a repeat this week, which will give me some time to catch up on the programs burning a hole in my TiVo. Still haven't seen last night's Amazing Race, so that might be where I start. Everything else can sit on the backburner for a bit.

As for The Loop, I've heard mixed things about it, but I might check out the first episode just to see. Plus, I am a sucker for anything with Phillip Baker Hall in it.


Anonymous said…
re: Deal or no Deal. I could barely sit through the commercials. Now that I actually know how it works, I am flummoxed at its mild success. Wasn't Press Your Luck essentially a pure, um, luck show? There wasn't any skill involved on that show, right?

VM - yippee!!!
Jace Lacob said…
I will second your yippee for the return of Veronica Mars!

As for Deal or No Deal, it needs to be seen to be believed. I don't usually believe in cruel or unusual punishment, but that's what this is. And yet the ratings are solid gold.

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