"The CNN Quiz Show" Review

Set Design- 7
Gameplay- 6
Show Flow- 6
Potential Viewer Ratings- 6
Play-Along Factor- 9
Host- 9
Overall- 7.2

Premise: Three teams, comprised of two contestants each, compete in six trivia rounds. In the first round, “Buzz”, the teams are asked a series of toss-up, multiple choice questions with each correct answer worth 10 points each and an incorrect answer giving one of the other two teams a chance to steal with a correct answer. In the second round, “Face Off”, each teammate plays a four-question, head-to-head bout against an opposing teammate. A total of three bouts are played to ensure each team has played two bouts. Each correct answer is worth 20 points.

In the third round, “Picture This”, teammates are shown a series pictures and names must use clues to get their partner to say the name. Each team has 60 seconds and each correctly guessed words are worth 30 points. The fourth round, “Match Mates”, has each team selecting a category and arranging five items aligned on the left side with the five items on the right side to make a match (e.g.: U.S. presidents to the bills they were depicted on). The team who makes the most correct matches in the fastest time wins 40 points, while second place wins 20 points and third place wins 10 points. In the fifth round, “Four Presidents”, each team is shown four presidents and has 60 seconds to answer questions in which the correct answers are one of the four presidents shown. Correct answers are worth 40 points each. In the sixth and final round, “The Big Bet”, teams are asked to place their final wagers before the commercial break and must select one of the four presidents shown. Each team’s question is based on information about the selected president or his administration. The teams will have 20 seconds to think about and answer the question. A correct answer adds the wager to team’s score and an incorrect answer subtracts the wager from their score. The team with the highest score at the end of the game won $20,000 for their charity and second and third place teams won $10,000. 

Before I begin my review, should CNN produce civilian episodes of this quiz show, there’s a good chance that some of the round names will change including “Four Presidents” and so will the money stake per episode. I will update the rules should the series continue. 

And now, for the review…

The CNN Quiz Show is as good as its title selection — it’s nothing more than just another generic quiz show made up of various elements from other game shows including Celebrity Name Game, Family Feud and Jeopardy!. With this being said, The CNN Quiz Show is not bad for what it is. Some of the commendable aspects of the show include fast-paced first round to get the contestants properly warmed up at the top of the game, introducing the new show with the familiar faces of CNN anchors on a holiday to try to garner the most viewers while most are enjoying their day off and the selection of challenging and interesting historical trivia questions used on the show, although the difficulty of the question were drastically reduced by the including multiple choice answers. 

The bright spot in the series lied within the show’s host, Anderson Cooper. Cooper performed excellently as The CNN Quiz Show’s quizmaster. Of course, Cooper’s poised demeanor didn’t come as a total shock to me given his years of experience as a journalist on CNN and even as a contestant on celebrity episodes of Jeopardy!. What stood out the most while watching Cooper on the cable news channel game show was how he great of a job he did taking command of the show by calming the audience down during the beginning of the first round as well as the anchors who were basically hamming it up for most of the episode to get through the game faster. This echoed the emcee stylings of game show legends including Bill Cullen, Alex Trebek, Bob Barker and even Ray Combs on Family Feud. 

Moving on to the show’s downfalls, some of the issues I have with The CNN Quiz Show include the lack of creativity in the show’s title, the hour-long format and the poor timing of the “incorrect” buzzer cue.

Better Title: I can understand if this title was given as a temporarily placeholder name in its early stages of development. I’m disappointed in the producers for their lack of creativity and just settling for a generic, uninteresting title for the show. They could have thought of snappier titles like “CNNquizition”, or “The Front Page” to perhaps highlight the show’s potential focus on current events and the historical background of those headlining news stories.

60-Minute Format: Although I like the variety in each round, sixty minutes is too long for a quiz show like The CNN Quiz Show. This format  could have easily been streamlined to 30 minutes by only including the first (Buzz), second (Face Off), third (Picture This) and fifth (Four Presidents) rounds and make the third round an elimination round. Since CNN’s schedule is primarily divided into hourlong blocks, the network could easily aired back-to-back episodes on a weekly basis, similar to what HISTORY has done with Pawnography and what GSN does with their half-hour shows. If History IQ could manage to create a solid, substantial, competitive format within a 30-minute time frame based on the same history-based theme, The CNN Quiz Show could do the same. 

“Incorrect” Buzzer (Mis)cue: Although this is a rather minuscule complaint, it doesn’t do the show much justice to include a “wrong answer” buzzer if it’s going to sound-off a nearly a second after the host has ruled an answer incorrect. The ill-timing of the buzzer slightly and unnecessarily disrupts the flow of the rounds. The show is better off without it. 

Overall, The CNN Quiz Show is a decent game show for the network, but has potential to improve if the series were to shorten its unnecessary, hourlong format and focus on current events trivia, should more episodes be produced. The show is has gotten off to a decent start, becoming the evening’s highest-rated series and averaging 686,000 viewers overall on its first night out. To put these numbers in perspective, on Presidents Day, CNN’s total day and primetime average ratings were 472,000 and 596,000 viewers. However, I don’t believe this show will garner the staggering amount of viewers CNN is looking for in developing new non-news programs, such as The CNN Quiz Show, in hopes of toppling FOX News for the top spot in the cable news ratings race. Should the show continue, I predict it will only last one season. I don’t believe it will have the staying power to last on CNN for a long period of time. 
Click here to check out the Presidents Edition episode of The CNN Quiz Show!
**All screenshots have been taken from the actual episodes of The CNN Quiz Show. No ownership is implied.**
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