NPR logo Think 'Deal Or No Deal' Is Too Brainy? Try Fox's 'Million Dollar Money Drop'


Think 'Deal Or No Deal' Is Too Brainy? Try Fox's 'Million Dollar Money Drop'

Contestants on Fox's 'Million Dollar Money Drop' consider their options. The show premieres December 20 at 8:00 p.m. Michael Yarish/Fox hide caption

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Michael Yarish/Fox

Contestants on Fox's 'Million Dollar Money Drop' consider their options. The show premieres December 20 at 8:00 p.m.

Michael Yarish/Fox

It's very unfortunate for Fox that Million Dollar Money Drop is debuting when it is. Specifically, it comes a week after the episode of CBS's How I Met Your Mother in which Robin auditioned for a job on a glitzy game show called Heads Or Tails — which, as you might expect, came down to the contestant guessing on a coin flip. Complete with a cameo from Alex Trebek, Heads Or Tails poked fun at the uber-seriousness of shows like Deal Or No Deal, where what basically comes down to a coin flip is surrounded by lights, tense music, and painful, agonizing pauses.

Million Dollar Money Drop, which premieres tonight at 8:00 at a startlingly bloated two hours, is basically just Deal Or No Deal, with a dash of Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader? thrown in.

Here's how it works: a couple gets a million dollars in $20,000 bundles. They are asked a multiple-choice question and have to distribute the money over pedestals marked with the various answers. All the pedestals with the answers that are wrong will eventually drop and dump the money that's been placed on them. (Down into, apparently, Earth's core.) You can't put money on every answer, meaning that you can hedge as to three out of four answers, but you can't hedge completely. And the more you hedge, the less you get to keep, since the money you bet on wrong answers is lost. Progressively, over seven questions, you lose as much money as you bet on wrong answers, and you presumably are dead if you leave the right answer without any money on it.

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Here's the problem: Either the questions have to be interesting or the action has to be interesting, because otherwise, it's exactly Heads Or Tails, in that you're spending all your time watching people stand around while the host weighs out loud the grave consequences of what is occurring.

Problem A is that there are only seven questions for the couple, and my best guess is that if you play all seven, they last roughly an hour. (I say that based on the fact that three questions take about 20 minutes in the commercial-free partial screener I saw.) If almost ten minutes of airtime seems to you like a long time to fixate on the answer to a multiple-choice question, you and I agree.

This, however, would be less problematic if the questions were slightly less stupid. There's no nice way to say it — these are questions that would be worth about $4,000 on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?, and while host Kevin Pollak keeps saying the questions are going to get harder, the first three questions he asks the couple in the preview are either very easy (the case with two of them) or both fairly easy and completely uninteresting (the case with one of them).

Fox has actually released a clip of the couple answering this question: "What numbers would you use to spell out the name of U2's lead singer on a touch-tone phone?"

Yes, that is the real question.

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Please note that while they know his name is Bono, these two cannot figure out that the two Os would at least have to be the same as each other, and wind up dumping money on the impossible answer "2667," but not on the far more plausible "1666." (The actual answer, as you know if you look at a phone near you, is "2666.")

Money Drop copies Deal Or No Deal's reliance on mugging contestants, forced banter, exaggerated reaction shots, and a highly reactive audience that yells "OH!" and "OOH!" and "YAAAAY!" every time anything happens.

If you can watch it and not be reminded of Heads Or Tails, you are a better person than I am.