In the new primetime gameshow “Who’s Still Standing?” losers fall through a trapdoor into vats of boiling oil. Ha ha, just kidding, they’re probably saving that idea for sweeps. Obnoxious contestants notwithstanding, the series represents NBC’s latest Christmas-adjacent stripping of a gameshow, which worked in the past to launch “Deal or No Deal.” As premises (and ratings metaphors) go, the disappearing floor isn’t the only part of this cheesy exercise with several holes in it, while the network hopes the “holiday marathon” paves the way for a weekly launch to come.
The main competitor in the game is playing for $1 million against 10 “strangers,” who he or she takes on one by one. In each round, they answer trivia questions, with whoever breaks first plummeting through the aforementioned floor. (We’re deprived of any shots showing what they land on, so those hoping for oil or spikes can create their own “Saw”-like version of the game instead their heads.)
The questioning moves along rapidly, set to the kind of urgent music normally associated with films like “Gladiator.” Host Ben Bailey (“Cash Cab”) is a bland addition to the hyper-caffeinated proceedings, though the players have clearly been advised to keep their energy levels up, to the point of exhausting our patience. There has to be an easier (or at least slightly more dignified) way to get a SAG card.
Although there’s a judging-books-by-the-cover aspect — the main player gets to decide who he faces (with the challengers getting $10,000 if they win), with some being so-called trivia “experts” — most of that’s lost in the banality of the actual competition and the simplicity of the questions. In addition, the cash prizes remain pretty paltry in the early rounds, despite the oft-mentioned potential for a much-ballyhooed seven-figure payday by running the table.
But hey, this latest game from the producers of “Minute to Win It” — derived from an Israeli format — is cheap and not a rerun, which is about all that’s required for the task at hand. The real question is whether the formula will still be standing much past Christmas, or if “Who’s Still Standing?” is destined (more likely) to take its own swift plunge into the primetime abyss.
In the spirit of the holidays, here’s at least to a soft landing.