Often billed as the toughest game show ever devised, the endurance quiz show 500 Questions returned to ABC Thursday night with a two-hour season premiere. The second cycle of the week-long event brought new changes including new host Dan Harris, ABC News correspondent and Nightline anchor, and a slightly revised format. While some of the changes improved the show and addressed some of the format issues seen during the first season, there were still a few glaring gaps within the gameplay. Here are the pro and cons to last night’s season premiere of 500 Questions:Pros:
Streamlined Gameplay – The reductions in response time (10 to 5 seconds), questions in a round (50 to 30), questions in a category (5 to 3) and special questions (Triple Threat and Top Ten Challenge removed) have undoubtedly aided in simplifying the game and increasing the show’s pace. I don’t think there was any doubt the Battle questions were going to be removed from the format considering that was more engaging and suspenseful speciality question type out of the three used last season.
Lightning Round – The new two-minute lightning round is a great addition to the show. Not only does it give contestants a chance to rack up more money ($1,000 per correct answer) and questions to accomplish their goal before time expires or answering incorrectly three consecutive times, but it also gives the show the better potential to live up to its name and reach 500 questions by the season’s end.
New Host – Although Dan Harris doesn’t exhibit the same intensity as Richard Quest did last year, Harris moves the show along well and quicker without adding the dramatic flair.
Ken Jennings – As much as it pains me to state this, Ken Jennings’ appearance tops the “cons” list for the season premiere for one reason: bad continuity. It’s bad continuity from a production standpoint considering the previous season ended with Dr. Richard Mason about to start his journey and Quest announced he would essentially be the carryover contestant next season. Even if he was unable to return due to personal reasons, that needed to be addressed at the top of the show rather than leaving dedicated viewers why Dr. Mason was inexplicably absent from the new season. Despite the show’s gimmicky attempt to garner viewer by headlining Jennings, it felt flat after he was surprisingly and disappointingly eliminated four questions into his game.
Same One-Sided, Two-Player Dynamic – Much like the allotment of multiple guesses within the time limit for a regular question, I’m still not crazy about the current champion/challenger dynamic of the show. Instead of having the challenger just stand there for a majority of the game and wait until their opponent answers three wrong in a row, the producers could have given the opponent the chance to respond to each regular question incorrectly answered and place strikes against the champion if they can provide the correct answer. In this manner, the opponent is a more active participant in the game and plays more of a role of eliminating their opponent by actually earning it rather than idly standby by and winning by default.
Still No “Top Prize” – As far as we know, there is still no extra incentive if a contestant were to reach the 500-question summit other than keeping the money acquired in the round leading up to the 500th question. This more than likely will not change.
Some of the other game changes include contestants receiving $1,000 upon a correct answer to a regular questions, rather than earning the cash if they answered correctly in their first response, and the elimination of the milestone question, which guaranteed the contestant $5,000 if they correctly answered the 25th question in a round. Overall, 500 Questions has improved compared to last year. The more simplified and concise format makes the show easier to watch, has made the game tougher as we have already seen three turnovers thus far and enables new viewers to become better acquainted with the rules with little to no confusion. In case you missed the first episode of the new season, check it out on Hulu and make sure to stay tuned for new episodes of 500 Questions for the next week.