June 30th, 2010
12:34 PM ET
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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