Leave it to “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” mastermind Michael Davies to split the difference between his brain-teasing quiz show and the no-skill-required guessing of the genre’s reigning champ, NBC’s “Deal or No Deal.” Teased with the (very) long-odds allure of a potential $10 million payout, “Power of 10” nevertheless proves a slick example of the big-money game formula, with the inherently likable Drew Carey cheering contestants along as its host. While “Millionaire” numbers are doubtless a thing of the past, this breezy construct could easily have the power to become a utility player for CBS.
Receiving a Tuesday preview prior to its regular Wednesday berth, the opener owes a big “thank you” to casting director Megan Miguez, who found an unusually appealing contestant pair to kick off the show.
Rules-wise, two players face off in a best-of-five question showdown, trying to guess how Americans responded to random questions in a national poll. Whoever comes closest then proceeds to the money round, which begins at $1,000 and rapidly progresses by multiples of 10.
Because the goal is to estimate the poll percentages within a dwindling range (30%, 20% and finally 10%) as the money rises, the game itself is more arbitrary than a matter of knowledge. Still, there’s something intriguing about the better questions, among them a pivotal one regarding how many women consider themselves feminists.
Having been anointed to take over “The Price Is Right” — which, in one of those typical media-stoked frenzies, somehow became the third-most-important job in America — Carey demonstrates the qualities that landed him the gig. Naturally funny and appearing genuinely invested in the players’ welfare, he noodles with them and nudges them along, helping milk (and milk and milk) drama from the “Should I or shouldn’t I risk 90% of what I’ve won?” conundrum.
Like almost every permutation of reality, gameshow success led to saturation and fatigue. Yet with Carey’s genial manner wrapped in Davies’ operatic approach to producing such things, “Power of 10” would seem to have a better chance of surviving than most.
Let’s put the odds, in an informal survey, somewhere between 35% and 55%, though unlike the preternaturally risk-prone breed that populates gameshows, I wouldn’t bet 90% of my check on that.