International Showdown: Whose Version of "Minute To Win It" Is Better: The U.S. Version or The U.K. Version?

September 7, 2011 marked perhaps the series finale of NBC’s Minute To Win It as there is no news to when the series is going to be renewed or not. Minute To Win It is a “Beat-The-Clock” style game show where contestants have to complete ten 60-second challenges for a $1 million grand prize. So far, Minute To Win It has lasted for three seasons on NBC and has yet to give away their million-dollar cash prize. Meanwhile across the globe, the U.K. debuted their own version of Minute To Win It about one week after NBC aired the third season finale of their show. This inspired me to dedicate this week’s article to this question: Which country’s version of Minute To Win It is better: The American version or The British version? Before I begin my review, I will rate the different factors of both shows as if I were doing a review of both shows. I have also removed the “Play-Along Factor” category for each version for fairness in the ratings because there is no play-along value in either version.  

Factor #1: Gameplay
In the U.S. version, one contestant (or a team of two contestants), will play a maximum of ten 60-second challenges. Every time a contestant successfully completes a challenge, they win the money attached to that challenge and move a step closer to the grand prize. Winning the first, fifth, eighth, and ninth level games guarantees the contestant(s) to win at least $1,000; $50,000; $250,000; and $500,000 respectively. Some games include a Blueprint Bonus, which awards the player an extra ten seconds, a bonus prize, or an extra life if they won the challenge. If a contestant loses a challenge, they lose a life. If a contestant loses all three of their lives, the game is over and the contestant leaves with their milestone winnings. If a contestant beats all ten challenges, they won the top prize of $1,000,000 in cash.

In the U.K. version, two teams, comprised of five men against five women and a celebrity captain for each team, compete against each other in a series of 60-second challenges to earn points. Each player must compete in an event and the team with the highest score at the end of the sixth event will win the game and will advance to the Cash Builder round. In the Cash Builder round, the winning team will start with a bank of £5,000 and will have 60 seconds to add to the bank for the final round. Each item in this round is worth £1,000 towards the bank. After the Cash Builder round ends, one player will be selected to play in the final round for the grand prize bank. If the contestant beats the final challenge, the team wins the money in their bank.

In the “Gameplay” factor, the U.K. has the advantage over the U.S. in this category. What fascinated me most about the U.K. version is the approach they took for the show and how it differs from almost every other international version of Minute To Win It. I like how the U.K. version’s concept and format is more original and the “Battle of The Sexes” theme they have going on as well. On the other hand, the U.S. version’s format not only rips off Millionaire’s original money level format (with milestones included), but also rips off The Cube, with the contestants using “lives” as chances on Minute To Win It. There are also too many milestones in the U.S. version. NBC had it right during the first season with only one milestone at the $50,000 level. The only time the show should have that many milestones is during the celebrity episodes. With all the milestones, it seems like the U.S. version’s only objective is to give away as much money as possible without any risk involved, such as on Deal or No Deal and Red or Black. Additionally, the 60-second games are challenging and are regularly rotated well, but sometimes I think some of the lower level games are more difficult that some of the higher level games. Overall, even though I think more money should be offered in the Cash Builder round, the U.K.’s format is far more creative than the U.S.’s format.

Gameplay: U.S. Version= 5  U.K. Version= 9

Factor #2: Show Flow

The U.S. version and the U.K. version each took a different approach to Minute To Win It. The U.S. series began focusing mainly on the gameplay. Several episodes later, the show transformed into a sob-story driven game show that is mostly fixated on the contestant’s lives rather than the actual gameplay. I understand that the show wants to capture the raw emotion from the contestants by having the emotional support from the audience, host, family and friends who might appear on show. However, it gets to the point where it’s annoying when the show is filled with almost every second of emotional moments, family flashbacks, and “surprise” family guests and phone calls. The U.K. version, however, has a more comical and light-hearted feel to it. It’s interesting that this show went with the comical approach because it has been a while since I have seen any game show where humor was a key element since Match Game. Darren McMullen, the host of the U.K. version, often jokes around on the show among the contestants, celebrity captains, and the viewers while still focusing on the show’s gameplay and not being completely fixated on trying to fill every second with jokes.

The U.K.’s great balance of humor and focus on the actual gameplay gives them the edge in the “Show Flow” category. Another reason why the U.S. version gets a below average rating in this category is because the show inserts the annoying, off-putting commercial cutaways at the beginning or in the middle of the games being played. This show also uses too many intros into commercial breaks as spoilers and teasers, and often abuses that aspect by spoiling the entire episode. A good example of this would be the two-part “Team Bishop” episode that was spoiled within the first commercial break by revealing one of the kids playing the million-dollar game Supercoin.

Show Flow: U.S. Version= 5  U.K. Version= 9

Factor #3: Host

In the U.K. version, Darren McMullen does a great job hosting the show. As I have said in the “Slow Flow” section, McMullen does a good job of making the contestants feel relaxed and not tense by joking with them while still focusing on the gameplay, even though some of his jokes are lame and unfunny at times. In the U.S. version, Guy Fieri carries the show well and interacts with the contestants well and often consoles and reassures the contestants when they don’t do well in a challenge. The only problem I have with him is that he often commentates too much during some of the tense, tough games. This was almost a tough one to call, but the edge goes to the U.K.’s Darren McMullen.

Host: U.S. Version= 7  U.K. Version= 8

Factor #4: Potential Viewer Ratings

The U.S. version, like all U.S primetime game shows nowadays, has been inconsistent with their time slot, bouncing from weekday to weekday, but has always managed to get the coveted 8:00pm time slot on weekdays, and even on the weekends. This version has also managed to pull a good number of viewers per episode, despite the multiple and unnecessary changes in the format during the first two seasons. The U.K. version did particularly well ratings wise during the show’s series premiere and is continuing to do well in its current timeslot airing Tuesdays at 8:00pm on ITV2. The winner in this category is the U.K. version once again by a slight margin. In my opinion, I think that the U.K. version will last longer than the U.S. version because the U.K. version has the classic “guys vs. girls” competitive aspect for their series that makes each episode worth watching.

Potential Viewer Ratings:

U.S. Version= 7  U.K. Version= 9

Factor #5: Set Design

The set design for each show essentially has the same setup: a half-circle studio audience surrounding the 60-Second Circle with large screens posted over the studio audience. But who will take the win in this category? The answer is the U.S. version for the first time in this article. The U.S version show went through multiple set changes throughout the first few episodes of the first season, including the addition of the wood paneling on the floor and removing the rails around the 60-Second Circle. Despite the changes, the U.S.’s set looks cool, especially with the lighted ring around the Circle representing the clock. The U.K.’s set on the other hand looks smaller and more cramped in space than the U.S.’s set, considering that 13 people are on the stage at once. Other than that, the U.K’s set looks pretty good.

Set Design Scores: U.S. Version= 10  U.K. Version= 8

And the winner is… The U.K. Version of Minute To Win It!!!

Final Score:

U.S. Version= 7.0

U.K. Version= 8.4

ITV2 took a chance and strayed away from the format that every other country was using, and it paid off. The U.K. may have ripped off another one of the own shows (The Cube), but they took Minute To Win It and put a different spin to it that sticks out from the rest. The NBC version of the series may have been the first network to air Minute To Win It, but they made the same mistake Deal or No Deal did in terms of doing too much with the show throughout the series. I hope to see the NBC version put less emphasis on the emotional appeal and more emphasis on the actual gameplay (like in the first season), but I’m not going to get my hopes up. Hopefully, the U.S. will see more episodes of Minute To Win It this winter. 
**All screenshots have been taken from the actual episodes of both versions of Minute To Win It. No ownership is implied.**
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