Looking more suited to daytime than primetime, WE’s “Most Popular” makes good use of energetic host Graham Norton and a studio audience to craft a fast-paced if rather mindless hour devoted to the not-exactly earth-shaking principle that people make snap judgments about total strangers. GSN actually tried a slightly edgier, more sophisticated take on this issue with the ill-conceived “Without Prejudice,” but this light game-format is probably a better approach — and it would certainly be hard to imagine a less-expensive one.
Each hour begins with seven female contestants, as the studio audience of 100 gradually dismisses them one by one — with the first being booted before the candidates can even say anything, based on appearances alone. Norton then proceeds to interview the group and try to extract information about them, from their response to ethical dilemmas to the worst or best things they claim to have done in their lives.
In a sense, the show should really be titled “Least Popular,” since until the final round when two players are left, the audience chooses who they want to see ousted — and gets to follow up by explaining why. Fortunately, British host Norton has just the right touch during the various interviews, eliciting catty comments but also having fun with them.
The only place the show really falters, in fact, is when Norton reveals a detail about each contestant after they’ve been voted off, as if aspiring to a higher-brow sociological perspective that the series otherwise lacks. Because while the program pretends that learning more about these women will alter our opinions, the bottom line is that 44 minutes of content is hardly enough to time to share anything more than the producers clearly want us to know.
Ultimately, the winner receives $100 for every final vote received, making for a maximum $10,000 payout, so nobody — including WE — is bound to get rich quick here.
That said, Norton deftly milks “Popular” for about all the concept’s worth — a combination that, given the channel’s modest ratings standards, should make the show just popular enough to expand on its six-episode order.