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The $25 Million Dollar Hoax

Apparently, NBC's righteous indignation over Fox cloning its boxing show "The Contender" lasted only until the network figured out how to tap into the DNA of Fox's "My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiance" with a British format.

Host: George Gray, with Ed McMahon.

Apparently, NBC’s righteous indignation over Fox cloning its boxing show “The Contender” lasted only until the network figured out how to tap into the DNA of Fox’s “My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiance” with a British format. Unfortunately, this latest let’s-put-one-over-on-the-family concept offers all the Fox show’s cruelty with none of its humor, though it is fun to watch pretty blond contestant/hoax-er Chrissy Sanford try to think, which kind of looks like it hurts. The best idea here is the truncated three-week format, since this slim premise would be hard to milk any longer.

Working from the aforementioned Fox show’s theory that watching young blond women suffer is darn good entertainment, this redundantly titled $eries asks poor Chrissy to pretend that she won $5 million in an online giveaway and then squander all the money on herself, ignoring her increasingly confused and disappointed family.

George Gray (who hosted “Weakest Link”) appears long enough to brief Chrissy about the rules, which are “Obnoxious,” through and through. Again, she must somehow manage to convince all her relatives to attend a big spin-type event with $25 million on the line in order to claim a “prize package” worth $400,000, continuing NBC’s strategy for chintzy reality gift-giving.

“I don’t want to make anybody cry or get anybody hurt,” says Chrissy, God bless her, who has clearly never watched one of these shows. Indeed, she’s crying and hurting people before the premiere is halfway over.

The family is all atwitter when Ed McMahon arrives to unveil the fictitious prize in grand Publisher’s Clearinghouse style. After that, things turn ugly, fostering suspense (not much, honestly) as to whether Chrissy will hang on and endure the sideways glances from her brothers, one of whom calls her “totally selfish.”

The problem is that the show hinges entirely on Chrissy alienating people with scant creativity in terms of how she goes about it. The entire hoax genre, in fact — including Fox’s “My Big Fat Obnoxious Boss,” which wasn’t sent out for review — requires an especially deft touch, relying even more than most reality TV on viewers harboring a certain contempt toward the contestants while still being able to empathize with them.

“Is it worth it?” brink-of-tears Chrissy asks as the music swells dramatically, wondering how she can possibly maintain the ruse.

Let’s see, $400,000 to piss off relatives? Even if it’s paid out over 40 years I’d do it for half that, provided I don’t have to watch “Hoax’s” next two hours.

The $25 Million Dollar Hoax

NBC, Mon. Nov. 8, 10 p.m.

Production: Produced by Reveille and Hallock Healey Entertainment. Executive producers, Ben Silverman, Stuart Krasnow, Scott Hallock, Kevin Healey; co-executive producers, H.T. Owens, Mike Harney, Mark Koops; line producer, Michael Gildersleeve; story producer, Scott Kreamer; field producers, Oscar H. Beltran, Damon Zwicker.

Crew: Camera, Walter Glover III; supervising editor, Leif Stoehr; production design, Joe Warson; casting, Bryan Stinson, Suzanne Broderick. RUNNING TIME: 60 MIN.

Cast: Host: George Gray, with Ed McMahon.

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