Not since the Publishers Clearing House giveaway has a television program exhibited the depth of feeling and production values of “Knock Knock Live,” a Fox series that asks the non-musical question, “So will some people watch Ryan Seacrest host pretty much anything?” Conceived by Simon Fuller, the show tries to take advantage of a live component to foster a sense of unpredictability but proved simply numbing in practice. Celebrities seemed willing enough to participate – hey, who wouldn’t want to play Santa Claus? – but after sitting through the introductory hour, when “Knock Knock” knocks next week, don’t answer.
Fox clearly has a kinder, gentler brand of reality TV in mind this summer, with this series premiering the same week as “Home Free,” another show with a “Queen For a Day”-type vibe. (The episode included a segment with the host of that show, Mike Holmes, one of the many shameless plugs and product placements scattered throughout the hour.)
Still, the unrelenting giddiness in the field – and frequent reaction shots of Seacrest staring up at the screen with a goofy grin on his face – will test the patience of even his loyal fans, and might require a trip to the dentist.
Seacrest’s accomplices included Kellie Pickler in Nashville and “The Tonight Show” alum Ross Mathews in scenic Covina, Cal.. David Beckham and Common also took part in segments that amounted to heartwarming human-interest stories, only with a sizable handout at the end.
The tears, not surprisingly, flowed freely. But the games and stunts – such as spraying $25,000 into the street, or having a couple try to decipher a message in Cantonese – were really just time-killing affairs, designed less to foster any suspense than rather transparently stretch out the interactions in between doling out the cash.
Being live, of course, is considered one of the ways to neutralize the effects of delayed DVR viewing, which makes experimenting with the form logical. Yet “Knock Knock Live” plays like a cautionary tale (are you listening, Neil Patrick Harris?), demonstrating that just training a camera on unsuspecting folks, plastering “Live!” across the screen and tossing money at them isn’t enough.
People obviously love walking away with unexpected money, but in an hour that really called for the host to smooth over the rough spots, Seacrest merely demonstrated how little personality he brings to this sort of exercise. In fact, with so many dollars flowing in different directions, would it be rude to ask how much it would cost, ballpark, to make him take a break for a while?