A social experiment turned into a survival gameshow, “Unanimous” opens with a less-than-compelling segment that takes nine people into a bunker and asks them to find one worthy winner of a boatload of cash. At its close, however, as the rules become clearer and strategies are created on the fly, the show clicks into a higher gear and starts to display its possibilities. It should turn nasty soon.
Contestants are sent to live in an underground bunker — no natural light, no clocks — until they can unanimously decide who should get the prize money. It starts at $1.5 million, but as we learn at the end of debut, that amount will be trimmed when unanimous decisions can’t be reached.
It has become commonplace for reality competition shows to cast attractive people with fiery personalities. “Unanimous” spreads the net a little wider and goes for different age groups: This crowd includes two attractive twentysomething women, a couple of overweight guys, a shady poker player, a soccer mom and a 49-year-old minister.
But the premiere chooses not to develop all the characters, only the dispute between a gay man and the female minister, who verbally spar over the Bible and real life. That gets tedious in a hurry.
Obviously, there’s not a unanimous vote on who gets the money in the first episode. The nine players then have to choose a person to leave based on three contestants’ secrets that are revealed. One player was committed to a psych ward; one was making $100K and filed for bankruptcy; and another was detained for carrying live ammunition. The players don’t know who has committed these sins.
Show ends with the players debating which is worse as they learn money will be subtracted from the $1.5 million until they make a unanimous decision. That seems a lot more interesting than watching nine secluded individuals attempt to gain favor with bunkermates.
“Unanimous” follows the “Big Brother” pattern of main-room interaction and secret diary-room disclosures. Production company is behind “The Biggest Loser” and “Beauty and the Geek,” with this show its first foray into the dark side of humanity.
It’s tough to get an audience to care for any of the players in a show that’s just 30 minutes long, and that may work against its ability to hold onto viewers of “American Idol,” where success is based upon a deep bond between aud and performer.