Hello, and happy belated 237th birthday to America. This time, I’m going to be reviewing a game show that premiered last night on NBC. It’s entitled Hollywood Game Night and is based on the actual game nights thrown by Executive Producer and Creator Sean Hayes.
The series follows two civilian contestants who take part in a casual game night with six celebrities (three on each team). The games are simple and range from placing pictures of celebrities in chronological order to charades to identifying portraits painted by gifted elementary school students from Culver City. At the end of five games, the team with the highest score gets a chance at cash for both the contestant and the charity of a celebrity’s choosing.
It’s hosted by Jane Lynch, who certainly doesn’t look out of place. She’s largely a character actor who is best known as Coach Sue Sylvester, frenemy to New Directions on Glee. Me thinks this is stunt casting, but she holds it together. I mean, she’s no Ellen DeGeneres, and she’s definitely no Betty White. I’d put her on the same level as that football player who replaced Pat Sajak on the daytime Wheel, Rolf. Here she is, explaining the background behind the series.
And somewhat of the same thing, with more people:
The games themselves are….. OK. The first one in the premiere consisted of identifying crunchy snacks in a bowl. Oddly enough, all of them are owned by Frito-Lay. Can anyone say “covert product placement”? The second can be best described as three-person Password. The bonus round? Well, that largely consists of celebrities describing other celebrities a la The $25,000 Pyramid’s main game while the civilian guesses them. Each one is worth $1,000 each to the contestant and the charity of the celebrity partner’s choice. Ten in 90 seconds or less is worth $25,000 to the civilian and $10,000 to the charity. Yes, it is rather low budget for an hour in prime time, but how are you going to afford these many B-list TV celebrities otherwise? I mean, in the first episode alone, you have Daniel Dae Kim, Alyson Hannigan, Martin Short, Kristin Bell, Matthew Perry, and Lisa Kudrow. Most of them are off work for the summer.
Speaking of the celebrities, one of the main selling points of the show is hanging out at this “fantastic party in the Hollywood Hills”, supposedly in Jane Lynch’s living room, with ” some of today’s biggest names in entertainment” . Well, it’s a party for the celebs all right. It’s just too bad that, in my opinion, they don’t interact that much with the contestants outside of the game. I mean, I don’t know what they do during commercial breaks, but in the game, the celebs are nothing but teammates. This party atmosphere seems a bit pretentious to me. Sure, you’ve got the band (which is OK), you’ve got Jane Lynch (who is OK), but this feels largely like Pantomime Quiz or Whose Line (where everything’s made up and the points don’t matter). Of course, celebrity-civilian partnerships are nothing new in game shows, but they’re better executed elsewhere. I mean, take a look at the various Pyramids.
And do you want to know the sad part about all this? This idea is nothing new. Burt Reynolds did something quite similar in 1987. He called it Win, Lose, or Draw. It proved to be so successful that it launched a syndicated version, a cable version for teens, and now a new cable version for teens coming out some time this year (to The Disney Channel, no less).
Overall, Hollywood Game Night is not bad, it’s just not good. I’d have just put it on NBC’s daytime lineup, because the budget fits. It’s not bad for a summer replacement, just don’t expect it to last very long. It’s on Thursday nights at 10/9c on NBC. Check your local listings.