There are some shows that are just made for the great unwashed, while others become the great unwatched. The question for Seven is where will Minute to Win It fall?
The game show premiered last night with so much blood pumping through its vessels it was hard to take it seriously. Maybe it doesn’t want us to. Is there great drama in watching a million dollars slip away when all you are trying to do is land a few ping pong balls in a few bowls? Absolutely. There’s great drama in watching paint dry when there is a million bucks riding on it.
Last night the most we got to was $50,000 -not to be sneezed at, but Hot Seat handed out twice that on Monday with less fanfare and half the television time. On the other hand the biggest show on television can stretch $100,000 for several months on end, and still capture our imagination.
Minute to Win It is based on a US format where deceptively simple challenges must be completed in 60 seconds, as a contestant proceeds up a money tree to the big $1M.
The first contestant, school teacher Shane, was brighter than his bright orange top. He was positively pumped for the first challenge. The audience were whooping and hollering like they had just stepped out of the Jerry Springer studio. Humility goes a long way in Australian television, but there wasn’t much of it here.
Each game was described in “blueprint” by an emotionless voice over (with apologies to 2001’s “Hal”) and graphics. The first game required Shane to dip his nose in vaseline and transfer cotton balls from bowl to bowl. He looked pretty silly, but no more silly than contestants on Hole in the Wall or Wipeout. Shane finished with enough time for us to even be subjected to a Replay (just in case we missed it) and his Elvis impersonation (just in case we can’t miss it).
Several other challenges involved pasta, ping pong balls, eggs, nails, and bottled water.
Sometime MTV host Darren McMullen was affable for this rather long show, but has a tough job in describing challenges that are entirely self-explanatory: “Still got four to go… it’s rolling away, not good, he’s at the 30 seconds mark…I don’t know if he’s going to do this….Oh no he’s lost one…” One game was so tricky apparently it could easily easily turn “Catastrophic” -normally words reserved for victims of Haiti, 9/11 or reading the morning ratings for The White Room.
By the end of several games, a still-pumped Shane won himself $50,000. The second contestant, who struggled to balance half a dozen coat hangers, was left with $2,500.
The best aspect of the show is its “I can do that” playability. I can see kids across Australia attempting these seemingly-easy challenges in living rooms with their families. It costs nothing to reproduce these games (which apparently number up to 70). The truth is most of them have probably been sitting on the pages of dusty kid’s activities books for years, kudos to the producers who gave them a makeover and got themselves an international format out of it.
As television this is 30 minutes too long and takes itself very seriously. In its shiny Shine Australia arena the dramatic lighting and music belies the nonsense taking place within it. The satire of Wipeout hosts, buffoonery of It’s a Knockout and cheesy testosterone of Man O Man made them successful with audiences. If Minute to Win It leans more on having a sense of humour and less believing its own high stakes drama it may not feel such a paradox. And please pour a bucket of water on the audience.
But there will be thousands wanting to try their luck at this thing. What do critics know anyway?
Minute to Win It airs 7:30pm Tuesdays on Seven.