June 30th, 2010
12:34 PM ET

ABC's 'Downfall' is harmless summer fare

When ABC announced the concept for its new summer game show “Downfall," there were those who were mortified at the idea.  What was the world coming to when a network greenlights a show where people and prizes are thrown off skyscrapers?

Fast-forward to the first two episodes of the show. Turns out “Downfall” is not the end of the world, but a fun quiz hurt by a gimmick that gets old fast.

Set on top of a multistory building in downtown Los Angeles, contestants tied to a safety harness (more on that later) must answer a series of rapid-fire questions on a specific subject (such as naming the country from its current or former leader, or identifying the TV show from a character). At the same time, “fabricated facsimiles” of all available prizes – including cash – roll along a conveyor belt.

If the contestant can’t answer all of their questions in time, the prizes start falling to the street below. If the cash drops, so does the contestant (all of whom wear harnesses to prevent injury), and the game ends.

To avoid being dropped, contestants have the option to either surrender a personal possession on the conveyor belt or get help from a friend or family member on a category.  However, the personal item or helpful friend risk being thrown off the building as well.

Fans of quick-recall quizzes will enjoy the game element of “Downfall."  More than 80 questions were asked in last week’s premiere – a nice change of pace from recent games that struggle to get through 10 questions in an hour – and there was a healthy mix of difficulty presented throughout the show.

Host Chris Jericho was also a pleasant surprise. The pro wrestler seemed quite comfortable behind the microphone, engaged in funny banter with the contestants and was able to tone down his over-the-top wrestling persona without losing his trademark wit and sarcasm.

Unfortunately, the show’s potential downfall is the gimmick that likely got the program on air in the first place. Watching one fake prize fall to its doom may be interesting, but I got bored watching more prizes drop as the show went on. Frequent replays of the drops hurt the game's continuity – it’s easy to miss a question being read when the focus is on the third or fourth viewing of a china cabinet falling to its demise.

Perhaps “Downfall” should consider a “split screen” for viewers during game play, where one half of the screen could focus on the contestant while the other half shows the prizes moving on the conveyor belt.

In the end, “Downfall” is a show that’s worthy of your DVR. You can play along with a good quiz while fast-forwarding through the fluff.

If you've watched “Downfall," let us know what you think in the comments below.

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Filed under: television

soundoff (8 Responses)
  1. Devon

    why waste all these great things

    July 6, 2010 at 9:57 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Mickey Dugan

    Jericho is a natural, and really, the only reason worth watching.

    July 1, 2010 at 8:35 am | Report abuse |
  3. edge

    It was...interesting. I like gravity-assisted game show tropes. I liked the idea of Russian Roulette and their trapdoor gimmick for the same reason, but that was much more daring. For example, no harnesses. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V7_cgU7JSJg

    June 30, 2010 at 5:50 pm | Report abuse |
  4. good stuff

    yes to jericho

    June 30, 2010 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Jason Hainline

    I only watch the show to support Y2J.

    June 30, 2010 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Pete

    Well, Jericho is a great host, and yes, the show is DVR worthy.

    June 30, 2010 at 2:15 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Lobo

    What a great concept to highlight the decline of western civilization.

    June 30, 2010 at 1:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Piker

      What a great comment to highlight the American inability to provide thoughtful criticism...the decline of western civilization is more based on continued reliance on an energy that has now polluted our environment in multiple ways, while the education system continues be bogged down by larger class sizes, dwindling emphasis on the arts, and fewer public school teachers that are paid less...
      But THIS isn't the decline of western civilization. This is an entertainment option which you have the freedom to like or not like...obviously for you it's a not like...now learn how to employ something smaller than nuclear arms to an ant farm, and it may come out as thoughtful.

      July 1, 2010 at 8:49 pm | Report abuse |

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