Credit ABC with perseverance, if not necessarily originality, in its commitment to feel-good reality TV, despite middling performers like “Secret Millionaire.” A producer of that show, Chris Coelen, is part of the team behind “You Deserve It,” a hodgepodge of other gameshows that culminates with the cash being handed over to a needy (and yes, deserving) individual, a la “Queen for a Day.” The money-raising procedure is sort of a Frankenshow — stitched together from old used parts — but as do-gooder holiday filler goes, ABC could do worse.
“The Bachelor’s” Chris Harrison is as much cheerleader as host in this context, as each episode opens by introducing a person, who can certainly use a sizable chunk of cash, being secretly lauded by their friends and relatives. One of those altruistic souls will play for the money, which the unsuspecting beneficiary will be presented — Surprise! Publisher’s Clearinghouse giveaway-style — at the conclusion.
The game itself is basically a modest twist on Twenty Questions, with each brief clue subtracting from the starting total by luck-of-the-draw increments, a la “Deal or No Deal.” The more clues — and they’re especially cryptic, blunting the play-along element — the more the prize drops in each round, with a final puzzle that starts at $250,000.
Even with dumb players, it’s a pretty good prescription for sizable purses. And given the waterworks that flow in the previewed episodes, if ABC doesn’t have a tissue sponsor tie-in, it’s missing a real opportunity.
The premiere features a friend playing for a widowed mother of two, while another hour has a daughter competing for her mom, who has done many good works in South Central L.A. If there’s one truly off-putting note, it’s a hyper-caffeinated Brooke Burns, who gets to deliver the good news to the understandably overwhelmed recipient.
Although there has been much speculation about whether viewers will gravitate toward uplifting material as a balm for the moribund economy, since ABC scored with “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” there’s been scant evidence to buttress such notions other than CBS’ “Undercover Boss.” Nevertheless, ABC seems committed to keep tugging at the heartstrings, eventually hoping to play a happy tune.
Based on its merits “You Deserve It” probably isn’t the show to do it, but a kickstart behind “Dancing With the Stars” ought to give the series a fighting chance — at least to return as a utility player. If so, it would mark a break from the perception that no good-deed-doing show goes unpunished.