Is it the Game Show Network or the Lame Show Network?
Since the early years of Game Show Network, the cable channel has been creating original content. However, over the last few years, many of the GSN original game shows have been less than stellar. The trend of mediocrity continues once again with GSN's newest program America Says.
The John Michael Higgins-hosted game is basically Family Feud but without the Family Feud charm. Two teams of four compete over three rounds to identify the top seven answers to survey questions.
During each round, both teams get their own question and 30 seconds to complete the blanks. Every correct answer earns the teams points and bonus points are awarded for getting all seven answers. If a team does not get all seven answers in 30 seconds, the other team can steal points by filling in the remaining blanks.
At the end of the third round, the team with the most points wins $1,000 and the chance to play the bonus round for an additional $15,000.
While the game itself is somewhat fun to play along with, America Says has a few main flaws.
Once again, GSN is very cheap with their potential payoffs. This isn't a network game show, so understandably GSN won't have the biggest budget, but recently it seems like GSN doesn't want to give away any money at all. It's actually surprising that the top prize for America Says is $16,000 when the typical GSN top prize as of late has been $10,000.
Do the producers realize that if a team does not win the bonus round and only takes away the $1,000 for winning the game, each of the four teammates only pockets $250?
$250 ... that's only enough money to buy one vowel on Wheel of Fortune! This is 2018! Who wants to go on a game show just to win $250!?
Losing contestants on '70s and '80s game shows sometimes won over $1,000 worth of parting gifts, while a game show made in 2018 is potentially only giving away $250 to each winning player! That is insane! Whoever currently determines the money values on GSN game shows really needs to start putting today's payoffs in perspective with payoffs from the past.
There's really no excuse as to why they can't produce game shows that feature a larger grand prize because GSN has had big money game shows in the past. Back in 2002, the Game Show Network program Russian Roulette was offering solo players the opportunity to win over $100,000.
$100,000 was also up for grabs on Bingo America which aired from 2008 to 2009.
In addition, in 2013, GSN rebooted Minute To Win It with a top prize of $250,000 and premiered a U.S. version of the British quiz show The Chase which occasionally gave away six-figure sums. It's pathetic how bad the money situation on GSN original game shows has gotten.
Then there's the point scoring system which makes absolutely no sense.
Using round one as an example, a team can earn 100 points for each correct answer and 1,000 bonus points for guessing all seven answers for a round total of 1,700 points. However, when you think about it, are the teams really receiving 1,000 bonus points or just a larger sum of points for the seventh correct answer?
When giving the seventh answer, the team still receives the normal 100 points for a single answer plus 1,000 points since they ran the board. So, technically, a team earns 100 points for the first six answers and 1,100 points for the seventh answer. What would make more sense is if each answer is worth 100 points and getting all seven answers is worth a round total of 1,000 points?
Whoever came up with the scoring system really needs to watch classic game show bonus rounds to learn how to properly determine bonuses. Take the Password Plus bonus game "Alphabetics" for example. A player gets $100 for each password guessed but $5,000 total for getting all ten passwords.
The Password Plus player did not receive $100 for all ten passwords guessed plus an additional $5,000 as a bonus for a total of $6,000. They only received $100 for each word if they did not win the top prize. The same should go for America Says. The team should only receive 100 points for each blank filled in if they do not guess all seven correctly.
And finally, let's talk about the America Says bonus round which is one of the most boring bonus rounds one can ever watch. Let's be honest, on many occasions, viewers, including die hard game show fans, will only tune in for the bonus round segment of a game show. Why? Because it often time features a fast-paced timed game that could evoke suspense and excitement.
The problem with the bonus round format on America Says is that there is neither suspense or excitement. The winning team faces up to four surveys. The first survey contains only the top answer, the second list's the top two answers, the third naturally has three answers and the fourth features four answers. If the team can fill in the blanks for all four surveys within sixty seconds, they win $15,000.
The team also gets one use of the skip button meaning if they get stuck, to save time, one team member can stop the clock and the team will move on to the next survey. If time permits, the team will go back to complete the skipped survey and hopefully win the $15,000.
With four surveys in the bonus round to get through, there is too much stop and go, and if the skip button is pushed, the bonus round essentially contains five total portions. There is no continuous flow whatsoever and even with the clock ticking, the bonus game does not bring out a sense of answer giving urgency.
In addition, it really isn't much fun watching a one answer survey because the blank is typically filled in within one to three seconds and the answer is often a no-brainer.
America Says has at least one thing going for it and that is John Michael Higgins is a decent host. Higgins is a film and television actor who is most known for his role in the Pitch Perfect film franchise and his voice work on the Nickelodeon cartoon The Legend of Korra.
This is John Michael Higgins' first gig as a game show host and he is doing well. He is very personable, his personality shines through as the game is played, he describes the game nicely and he is a very likable person. Higgins' hosting style can be compared to when John O'Hurley hosted Family Feud. With a better show, Higgins could actually be a force in today's game show hosting scene.
GSN really needs to "up their game" when it comes to original content. It's sad to think that a channel that supposedly specializes in game shows once again cannot deliver a satisfying half-hour of non-complaining fun. If they can capture the magic they had when producing shows like Whammy: The All-New Press Your Luck and Lingo, the network can easily redeem itself. However, America Says is keeping GSN's current reputation alive. Unfortunately, that reputation is creating mediocre game shows.