Review: ‘Duel’

More “The Weakest Link” than “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” “Duel” will face a duel of its own -- going up against another multi-night event,

More “The Weakest Link” than “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” “Duel” will face a duel of its own — going up against another multi-night event, NBC’s “Clash of the Choirs,” as both nets seek to replicate “Deal or No Deal’s” launch formula — grabbing viewers with repeated exposure during the usually fallow period before Christmas. Crisply produced and peppered with questions that can be a bit trickier than they look, it’s a slick enough little package as the networks bring to bear an arsenal of games and reality in their own duel against the Writers Guild.

ESPN radio personality Mike Greenberg handles his hosting duties with aplomb, though the familiar habit of dramatically milking each question begins to irritate even the contestants. “Oh just get on with it!” one blurts out, and it’s hard to argue.

As structured, “Duel” features 24 players (each boiled down to convenient little stereotypes, like “the Internet censor” and “the used car salesman”) competing in one-on-one faceoffs by answering multiple-choice questions. Adding to the stakes, they essentially gamble on how well they know the answer based on how many choices they cover, with each incorrect guess using up their allotment of 10 chips.

Wrong responses also feed the overall kitty, with the last surviving player to walk away with more than $1.5 million on Sunday, per ABC, after six not-quite-consecutive nights, skipping Saturday.

Perhaps the niftiest twist is that winners get to choose their opponents for the next round; each tries to size up which one he or she has the best chance of beating. Unfortunately, this initially yields inane smack talk during the game, which feels just as coached and stilted as it sounds.

Still, despite all the usual bells and whistles (eerie music, long pauses, hot models), the elimination approach does manufacture a modicum of suspense that figures to grow as the herd thins and prize money balloons over subsequent nights. In that sense, the mano-a-mano aspect is reminiscent of the disgraced ‘50s quizshow “Twenty-One,” though the relative difficulty of the questions then vs. now is a sad testament to the quality of the U.S. educational system.

NBC’s “Choirs” contest will air live, so it’s hard to gauge how formidable ABC’s competition will be. Nevertheless, the network could have a solid fill-in property on its hands here — one that could presumably restage the elimination format, airing a few nights a week, should it return, which is just the sort of chip every broadcaster is currently looking to play.

Produced by BermanBraun and Fox stalwart Rocket Science, “Duel” has already aired in France. Greenberg describes it as a game of “strategy, knowledge and nerve,” and it does have all of that, but in these script-free times, he omitted another key ingredient: necessity.


ABC, Mon. Dec. 17, 8 p.m.


Produced by BermanBraun, Rocket Science Laboratories and French TV. Executive producers, Gail Berman, Lloyd Braun, Chris Cowan, Jean Michel Michenaud, Charles Duncombe, David Rosconval, Francis Vacher; co-executive producer, R.A. Clark; producer, Tim Bock; director, Mark Gentile.


Production design, Anton Goss; music, David Vanacore; supervising casting producers, Kristi Russell, Tyler Ramsey. Running time: 90 MIN.


Host: Mike Greenberg.
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