ABC introduced a new game show called Duel on December 17. As the writers strike drags on and slowly strangles the regular television schedule, networks are looking for easily produced yet fresh programming to fill the void. Will Duel fit the bill for the long term? Or will it be more short term filler, only to breathe a short time on the airwaves, but quickly disappear like game shows of the past like The Weakest Link?
Duel mixes elements the game show Who Wants to be a Millionaire and Texas hold em poker according to ABC. While the scene and setup of the game resemble most of the current and former prime time game shows, the tournament style format is a refreshing change. Game play involves 24 contestants over six episodes in a week long tilt, competing for a final jackpot. Unlike game shows like Deal or No Deal, where sometimes the contestant comes away with nothing, the final winner will take home over $1.5 million according to ABC.
Contestants play in a head-to-head format, answering multiple choice questions. At the beginning of each round, each contestant is given ten chips each representing $5,000. On any given question, a contestant may use as many chips as he feels he needs to stay alive. So if the contestant does not feel confident in answering a question, he may use four of his chips to cover all of the multiple choice answers. While this keeps the contestant alive, he loses three of his chips, which are added to the jackpot. This quickly reduces the chip count of the contestant who hedges his bet in this way.
An interesting twist to each Duel is the “pressure” button. Contestants are not given any time limitation at the start of each question, but if they feel their opponent is slow in answering, they can use the pressure button, thus putting an immediate seven-second clock on their opponent. Each contestant can use two “pressures” per duel. This element certainly keeps the game moving, and avoids the horrific slowdowns that frequently pop up in Deal or No Deal and Millionaire.
Will viewers commit to watching six episodes of one game show in seven nights? While that may be difficult, ABC is certainly counting on hooking viewers early and keeping their attention. Rather than pulling the average trivia geek off the street, Duel labels its contestants by occupation.
For example, in the first batch of 24 contestants, we have The Lunch Lady, The Belly Dancer, The Used Car Salesman, and The Telemarketer, among others. By drawing from a diverse background, Duel intends to have the home viewer make an attachment to their favorite player, and hopefully stay with the program for the duration. Smack talking among the contestants seems to be not only tolerated, but encouraged, and adds additional entertainment value to each duel.
Duel is hosted by Mike Greenberg, of ESPN’s Mike and Mike in the Morning radio show. Greenberg does an adequate job of keeping the game moving, however does not bring any real comedic value to the program. The ever present game show requirement, the female hostess, is also fulfilled in the form of two chip girls, Jennifer Aguero and Olivia Fox.
Duel will face stiff competition from the start, as NBC premiers its own game/reality show Clash of the Choirs on Monday night as well. If Duel holds its own in the ratings numbers during this one week trial, expect to see it quickly return. The ongoing writers strike will insure the quick renewal of any new game show that strikes a chord with the viewing public.