Endemol and NBC have managed the seemingly impossible — combining on a quiz/trivia show nearly as mentally undemanding as their no-skill-required hit “Deal or No Deal.” Amusing concept of pitting one contestant against a panel (or “mob,” in the show’s parlance) of 100 basically plays like “Deal,” inasmuch as the questions are so simple that amassing thousands isn’t much harder than guessing which case to open. On the plus side, the Peacock arrives first among a wave of midseason gameshows, and “1 vs. 100” is the kind of thought-free fare that could go down easy at the work week’s conclusion.
Bob Saget probably never thought his career would entail channeling “Deal’s” Howie Mandel, but that’s pretty much the role he assumes in guiding players through this contest — which, again mirroring “Deal,” offers frequent chances for greedy participants to walk away with plenty of money or hold out for the chance to win a whole lot more.
Another European import, “1 vs. 100” has the player answering truly dunderheaded multiple-choice questions, most about pop culture, winning cash for each member of the “mob” who answers wrong. It’s in the interest of the mob — a stacked wall of folks, among them “Jeopardy!” champ Ken Jennings, which vaguely resembles “Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome” — to get answers right, because they split the total should the “one” miss.
This gives rise to the show’s “DoND”-style catchphrase: “The money … or the mob?”
Because the questions are generally about as tough as the $100 opener on “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” (sample: Who sits in the middle on “American Idol?”), it’s no great shakes to reach $80,000 or $100,000, at which point any normal person should think hard about taking the money and running. Then again, that “You idiot!” factor goes a long way in explaining why “Deal” has become a surprise hit, if an increasingly modest one.
Saget certainly knows the hosting drill from his “America’s Funniest Home Videos” days, though it’s difficult to manufacture much suspense when the brainteasers involve knowing that “Million Dollar Baby” and “Cinderella Man” were about boxing and “Training Day” wasn’t. (For some reason, I kept hoping Saget would lapse into his version of the joke from “The Aristocrats,” but perhaps that will have to wait for the DVD extra.)
In the interim, NBC probably has the right idea in seeking another low-cost fix to plug lineup holes while watching to see if the pricier new dramas launched this fall can take root. Of course, the odds against a network getting lucky twice with such an endeavor are pretty long, but hey, at least they’re a little better than one in 100.