“Divided” Review

Set Design- 8
Gameplay- 9
Show Flow- 10
Potential Viewer Ratings- 6
Play-Along Factor- 8
Host- 9
Overall Rating- 8.3

Premise: A team of four strangers must work together to answer questions in three rounds to build their bank. For each question, the team has 60 seconds to answer unanimously. With every second that ticks by, the value of the question quickly decreases. Correct answers add money to their bank and incorrect answers cut the team’s bank in half. The team may use two Takeovers throughout the game, which can be used by any contestant to instantly lock-in with their answer without conferring with their teammates.

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In the first round, three questions are asked worth $5,000 and each has one correct answer. In the second round, there are three questions worth $10,000 and each has two correct answers. The team must lock-in with both correct answers to earn money. After round two, team votes on whom to eliminate. Three contestants must come to an agreement in order to continue. If there is no initial unanimous agreement, the team has 15 seconds to discuss and vote before their bank begins diminishing. The eliminated contestant leaves with nothing.

In the third round, there are two questions worth $15,000 and $25,000. The first question may have multiple correct answers and the team must arrange the answers in the correct order for the second question.

In the final round, the bank is divided into three uneven totals: 60%, 30% and 10%. Team has 100 seconds to agree on which contestant will take each amount. Once the clock starts, the money amounts begins to slowly decrease as well. The clock and bank will only stop if all three contestants agree to take each one of the bank portions. If no decision has been made at the 50-second mark, the clock stops and each contestant has 10 seconds to state their arguments and plead their cases. If no unanimous decision has been made at the end of the 100-second time limit, the team leaves the show with nothing.

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Review: I am quite conflicted about how I feel about this show. On one hand, it is an interesting show to test contestants’ social awareness by the questions posed by the host and to see how well strangers can work in a cooperative and collaborative manner, even though they are fully aware of the fact that two – or all three – teammates could get scrod at the end of the game. On the other hand, this is the type of game that deliberately brings out the worst cutthroat and deceitful qualities in people. Let’s begin with some of the tolerable elements of Divided. Full disclosure: There will be parts of this review that will seem contradictory, but I’m just simply expressing how I feel about this series.

The construction of the devilishly clever format is quite ingenious, from getting four strangers to come to a consensus on various questions and how to unevenly split the winnings in a decisive and expedient manner to adding the Takeover option into the mix to allow contestants to make a unilateral decision on a final answer. Throughout the entire game, teams are constantly under the pressures and strict constraints of the clock and their own ability to quickly and accurately agree on answers in the midst of their own dissensions. The dual antagonistic forces teams face on Divided are similar to what contestants had to endure on game shows like Press Your Luck or Whammy – simultaneously playing against their opponents and the omnipresent Whammy. Each show features a group of contestants who come from various walks of life. The producers meticulously and carefully mixed and mesh contestants with opposing viewpoints, generational age ranges, educational backgrounds and beliefs to further bolster the controversial, combative and adversarial dynamic of the format. It wasn’t too long ago when a Trump supporter and a transgender contestant were on the same team going at each other’s throats on a question concerning the belief in the ideological existence of the “American Dream”. These are the tense moments the producers envisioned when creating and developing this show.

Two of the best changes made between the UK and US versions are the inclusions of a fourth contestant and opinionated, thought-provoking questions.

At first glance, it may seem pointless for the producers to add a fourth player given one contestant was going to be eliminated in the middle of the show regardless. However, should a team fail to completely agree on which contestant should be 86’ed from the remainder of the game, the team has 15 additional seconds to unanimously decide before their bank begins to dwindle. This is where the subtle brilliance is seen by adding the ancillary contestant. This game-changing element is the difference between teams potentially winning and losing thousands of dollars, especially if their presence proves to be a hindrance to the team’s success through their indecisiveness or obnoxious and toxic behavior.

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What I also love about this version of Divided is the variety of the questions. Most of the questions revolve around current events and public surveys. Basic trivia will be of little use to contestants in this game. You will partially need a keen knowledge of pop culture and current events, strong convictions and sharp intuition and insight into what the average American is thinking on a wide range of issues and topics from politics to entertainment. As the game progresses, the opinion-based questions get more difficult, controversial, provocative and tougher to contemplate, partially considering teams must agree on multiple correct answers instead of one on the regular questions and figuring out the correct order of a list of answers to ranking questions.

Unfortunately, as brilliant as the format is, it is also the show’s cringing downside. Divided is the type that brings out the absolute worst in people and creates unnecessarily uncomfortable scenarios where contestants are literally at each other’s throat for a few thousand bucks, on average. On the preview episode, which aired in November 2016 before the official GSN series premiere, there was a contestant who petulantly, blatantly and shamelessly mocked another contestant’s Indian ethnicity. If I wanted to see people yelling at and berating each other, I would just watch any CNN panel debate. This is the perfect program for audiences who love vapidly pointless drama and who regularly tune into shows like the Real Housewives series or just about any other reality show. This is just the type of show that I wouldn’t watch because the main reason why so many people like myself watch game shows is that we use it was a form of escapism from the nonsense and dreck that’s happening in our world today. Given how exhausting this past election has been and how soul siphoning it is to watch the seemingly endless stream of depressing and perturbing national and global events unfold on a daily basis, this is one of the last shows I would want to tune into on a regular basis.

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Overall, Divided has all the dramatic and controversial theatrics of a reality show plus the mechanics of a traditional game show jam-packed into a half-hour program. Although this show was not made for viewers who want to kick back and take a break from the agonies of reality, one cannot deny how intriguing and well-constructed this format is by placing its contestants on edge at every turn, from the methodical and psychological use of the countdown money clock  to forcing contestants to step out of their personal comfort zones to work together and discuss/debate uncomfortable societal discussion topics with individuals whose values and creeds may not exactly align with their own. The social experiment game show proved time and time again that it is not afraid to deal with divisive subject matters and ask provocative questions. Divided is already in its second season with Mike Richards, former host of The Pyramid and current executive producer of The Price Is Right and Let’s Make A Deal, performing excellently at the helm and I predict GSN will bring it back for a third.

Stay tuned for new episodes of Divided every Thursday at 9:00pm and 9:30pm on GSN!
Screenshots taken from episodes of Divided.
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