"The Wall" Review

Set Design- 9
Gameplay- 5
Show Flow- 7
Potential Viewer Ratings- 8
Play-Along Factor- 7
Host- 10
Overall Rating- 7.6

Premise: A couple plays a series of three rounds on The Wall. In the first round, Free Fall, both contestants face five two-option multiple choice questions. On each question, three balls are simultaneously dropped from slots 1, 4 and 7 and the team must lock in their answer before one of the balls fall in a slot. The slot dollar values range from $1-$25,000. Correct answers add the combined total of the three slots in which the balls fell into to the team’s bank and incorrect answers or unanswered questions subtract from the bank. In order for the team to advance, they must have $1 in their bank at the end of the round. 

In the second round, one contestant must answer the rest of the questions from the isolation booth behind The Wall. The on-stage contestant is given two green balls, three question balls and two red balls. The contestant must drop the two green and red balls from the same slot(s). For the question balls, the on-stage contestant decides which slot to drop the ball from before the question is shown, based on their teammates’ knowledge of the previewed trio of multiple-choice answers. The contestant is also given the options to “double-up” (drop two balls from the same slot) or “triple-up” on the second and third questions. As in the first round, correct answers add money bank and incorrect answers subtract. The top dollar value in the second round is $250,000.

The third round plays the same with the exception of the questions featuring four multiple-choice answers and the on-stage contestant is allowed to drop four green and red balls at the beginning and end of the round. The top dollar value in the third round is $1 million.

At the end of the game, the isolated contestant, who is unaware of their teammate’s on-stage performance, is given a contract featuring a guaranteed bailout offer comprised of the money won in the Free Fall round plus $20,000 for each correct answer given. If the contract is signed, the team wins the guaranteed offer. If the contract is ripped up, the team wins the total accumulated on The Wall, if any.

Before I delve into the nitty gritty of my review, let me preface it with the following:

As seemingly pointless and gimmicky as they may seem, there is a merit to the existence of “giveaway” game shows like Deal or No Deal that give away swaths of money with minimal effort. LeBron James had expressed before the series aired the sole purpose of The Wall is to essentially give away life-changing sums of money to deserving couples. The couples I’ve seen so far seem to have great intentions for what they would do with their winnings. When you take a glimpse at the shocked and surprised looks on the contestants’ faces when they hear the incredible sum of money they have amassed or the devastating and dejected look they have once they receive the news that they had won nothing on this particular show – as we have seen on the second episode – it evokes feelings of happiness and sometimes sadness when you take into account their heartfelt backstory on why they applied to be on the show in the first place. With that being said, even though the show has an emotional, altruistic premise like Extreme Home Makeover, an excellent host in Chris Hardwick (per usual) and an amazing set design in the four-story electronic wall, the game itself is disappointing and leaves much to be desired.

Too Many Damn Spoiling Teasers: I cannot state this enough how much I absolutely hate spoiler teasers, especially when it comes to big money game shows. I understand the need to produce and air the teasers and commercials from a marketing perspective to gin up interest. From a viewer’s perspective, even though it was great to watch a team win a massive sum of money, it slightly quells and deflates those big moments that we all love to anticipate because of the overexposure of airing clips featuring contestants hitting the million-dollar slots within the promos. Imagine if ABC utilized this technique when John Carpenter became the first million-dollar winner on Millionaire or if NBC’s Twenty One had spoiled David Legler’s $1.76 million win with a cheap promo desperately created to garner viewers.

Way Too Easy To Win A Million: The second issue I have with this format is similar to why I disliked Deal or No Deal so much – winning hundreds and millions of dollars with minimum to no effort. The first five questions in the Free Fall round are predictably and appropriately simple, much like the first five of Millionaire, to ease the team into the game before the difficulty ramps up. The problem is once the opening round concludes, the questions don’t get much tougher and reach a medium range of difficulty as the game progresses. Combine this with the element of giving the team seven free green balls to drop in the second and third rounds and giving the contestant the option to “double-“ and “triple-up” the balls on the second and third questions of each round – which could net them over $4.75 million without doing anything to earn it – and you’ve got yourself yet another gimmick-ridden giveaway game show. This perfectly segues to my next issue.

Forced Loss Of Money: This is where the show confuses me. On one hand, the producers have developed the format to enable contestants to win hundreds of thousands of dollars with ease. However, they have also added an inexplicable, contradictory element of forced risk by stating the contestant must drop seven red balls in rounds one and two. If they truly wanted to make the game more challenging, the producers could have maintained the medium difficulty level for the second round questions and drastically raise the bar on the third round question difficulty while eliminating the free green/red ball drops and let the team’s fate purely lie in how the teams answer the questions.

On The Bright Side…: All criticisms aside, the other two aspects I enjoy besides the ones I had mentioned in the beginning of this review are the contract and the Free Fall round. The contract at the end of the main game adds a unique element of suspense and necessary drama. This is similar to what Set of Life did in 2007 when the isolated contestant ultimately determined the fate of the team’s winnings by deciding to stop at a certain point in their game. The most intriguing part of the Free Fall round is how the time limit is based on the unpredictable speed of the three balls dropping. The opening round could be altered to become an interesting qualifying round for two couples to engage in.

Overall, although The Wall is not worst primetime game show I have ever seen, it is certainly far from the best. At the most, this is an average game show. As a series in general, it’s a great show to watch if you enjoy watching good people who are pillars of their community have a shot at winning astounding amounts of money that could not only change their lives, but also potentially drastically transform the lives others should they decide to use their winnings for charitable causes. As I have previously stated, this game show could be more appealing if the entire game was purely based on the contestants’ knowledge of the trivia questions with no free red/green balls given before or after and drastically increasing the question difficulty in the second and third rounds. The Wall has pulled decent ratings thus far three episodes into its first season and I believe NBC will give the LeBron James-produced game show a second season renewal.

Stay tuned for new episodes of The Wall Tuesday nights at 8:00pm ET on NBC! Catch up on past episodes of the first season on NBC.com.
**All screenshots have been taken from the actual episodes of The Wall.  No ownership is implied.**

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