Set Design- 7
Show Flow- 9
Potential Viewer Ratings- 9
Play-Along Factor- 10
Overall Rating- 8.0
Premise: A panel of four celebrities must select the correct identity of an individual, based on their affidavit, out of a group of three contestants who all claim to be the real person. Two of the contestants are lying while only one contestant is sworn “to tell the truth”. Once the statement has been read about the person’s unique talent/accomplishment, the celebrities will have about two minutes to cross-examine the contestants to obtain more information. Once time expires, the celebrities vote without conferring on who they believe the real person is. Correct guesses earn the celebrity one point. The celebrity with the lowest score at the end of the show will be embarrassed via social media by host Anthony Anderson tweeting a lie about them on his/her Twitter page, which they cannot delete or deny for 24 hours.
At the end of the second game, an additional round is played with the two remaining impostors called “Before You Go”. In this game, another affidavit is read about the identify of one of the two contestants and the celebrities must once more cross-examine them and vote on who is the real person.
No cash is awarded to the contestants if incorrect votes are given.
And now, for the review:
If you’re looking for a good laugh, this is the show for you. However, if you were watching last night’s premiere episodes because you are a lifelong fan of To Tell The Truth, you will be slightly disappointed. Before I jump into the latter, let’s take a look at the positive aspects of this revived series. This version successfully offers a fresh take on the show, breaking away from the status quo format that we have all come to know and love. While ultimately staying true to the original premise, ABC’s To Tell The Truth is unique in its own way by making it livelier and funnier with the addition of a live band (Cheche Alara and his Band of Liars), introducing new rounds and segments including “Before You Go” and “Tweet A Lie”, shifting the competitive dynamic from the challengers competing against the panelists to the panelists competing against each other for kicks and giggles and centering the show around its comedic angle – clearly shown with the guest panelist selections à la Mike Tyson and Anthony Anderson’s mother, Doris Hancox, joining the show as the “scorekeeper”. This edition of To Tell The Truth reminds me of the 1970s revival of I’ve Got A Secret by how there’s more importance stressed on exhibiting the guest’s talents rather than giving away money. The elimination of the challengers introducing themselves by name at the top of every game is an excellent revision for the new series because this change widens the scope for more interesting stories and cases to be presented to the panel, such as figuring out which of the three ladies in the second episode was the voice of Apple’s Siri, and makes it a little tougher for them as well. The show also feels less constricted and more liberating from what we have seen from the other incarnations of the series. Unfortunately, it’s this very element that negatively affects the gameplay.
While the loose cross-examination format gives the opportunity for panelists (and sometimes the host) to ask questions freely without being restricted by a 30-second limit, it also comes off as being disorderly, sporadic and sort of all over the place. It seems like the panelists are looking for laughs rather than vying to obtain vital information through substantive questioning. This not only does a disservice to the panelists in attempting to figure out who is the telling the truth due to the lack of good information to base their decision, but it also puts home viewers who are playing along with the games at a disadvantage for the same reason. There were a few games where I couldn’t even make an astute educated guess about who the real person was because I had learned next to nothing about how knowledgeable the challengers were about their skill set or accomplishment from the group interrogation period. The cross examination could be a little more structured and give at least 45 seconds to one minute for each panelist to ask questions and still have time to joke around. This will also minimize the risk of panelists interrupting each other, as you might have seen several times during the Mike Tyson episode.
Overall, although I’m not crazy about the mechanics of how the game is carried out, the producers have successfully found a way to make To Tell The Truth work for today’s television generation by heavily placing emphasis on humor, integrating social media with the “Tweet A Lie” closing segment, assembling the excellent, cohesive cast of Anderson, Hancox, NeNe Leakes, Jalen Rose and Betty White and playing the game for fun rather than profit. ABC would be foolish not to bring this show back for a second season and I believe and hope they will do just that.