Set Design- 10
Show Flow- 10
Potential Viewer Ratings- 9
Play-Along Factor- 9
Overall Rating- 9.2
Premise: Two contestants compete against each other in a two-round game to spin the reels of the show’s iconic giant slot machine and answer questions to earn money. The reels in the front game are comprised of six categories and jokers. In the first round, both contestants are limited to four spins and the category values are as followed: Single = $100, Double = $200, Triple = $300. Unlike the original version, if a contestant spins three jokers, (s)he will only answer a multiple-choice question for $500. In the second round, the categories change, the dollar values are doubled and contestants are allowed to take up to three spins. The contestant with the highest total at the end of the second round wins the game, keeps their money and advances to the bonus round. In the “Beat The Devil” bonus round, the reels are now filled with varying dollar values between $300 and $2,000 (if (s)he spins a joker). The champion has unlimited attempts to earn $10,000 and may opt to stop and keep their bonus winnings after any spin. Reaching the $10,000 goal wins the champion $25,000 in addition to what (s)he has won in the front game. If a devil appears at any time during the end game, the round ends and the champion loses any bonus winnings earned at that point.
In the “Beat The Devil” bonus round, the reels are now filled with varying dollar values between $300 and $2,000 (if (s)he spins a joker). The champion has unlimited attempts to earn $10,000 and may opt to stop and keep their bonus winnings after any spin. Reaching the $10,000 goal wins the champion $25,000 in addition to what (s)he has won in the front game. If a devil appears at any time during the end game, the round ends and the champion loses any bonus winnings earned up to that point.
Review: I know I have stated the following statement in several articles and reviews I have posted over the years, but I will say it again here: I get very uneasy and leery when it comes to game show revivals. They range from well-executed works of art like ABC’s The $100,000 Pyramid and Match Game, and Lifetime’s Supermarket Sweep, to porous and disappointing productions that leaves viewers feeling they would have been better off without it like GSN’s 2007 edition of Lingo, Shop ’Til You Drop under the discount warehouse format and the visually offensive 2001 revival of Card Sharks. The 1990 revival of The Joker’s Wild falls within the middling range of the spectrum – it wasn’t bad but wasn’t that great either. While the definitions aspect was a welcome change to the format, the game’s structure made each episode seemingly longer than it was. Fast forwarding to the latest attempt to revive the classic game show, I can confidently say this is the best revival of The Joker’s Wild I have seen thus far.
Much like VH1’s Hip Hop Squares, this version kept it simple and stayed true to the premise while making excellent tweaks to improve the game and the show overall. The latest iteration of The Joker’s Wild did right by its fans of the classic version by retaining several elements from the original including the logo that spreads across all three reels of the giant slot machine, the digital dollar value readout shown atop of the machine, utilizing the same front game structure and some of the same music cues (e.g.: wrong answer buzzer) and bringing back a higher stakes version of the “Beat The Devil” end game. Michael Strahan and the production staff have also done a phenomenal job of not only developing the show to be more tailored toward today’s viewers who may not be as thrilled to see the revival compared to die-hard game show fans, but also allowing Snoop Dogg to customize the show to his liking – reefer references and all. Here are the four elements I appreciated the most on new Joker’s Wild:
The Set: The environment aptly resembles a Vegas nightclub casino from the studio being infused with a lively hip-hop rendition of The Joker’s Wild theme music to Jeannie Mai (The Real, Steampunk’d) assisting with the gameplay as Lady Luck to the audience and contestants donning club casual attire. This is the first time we get to see The Joker’s Wild in a gambling-themed set. The only change that would perfect the set is if it were to take place in an actual casino, like Las Vegas Gambit or Dealer’s Choice.
The Categories: This version takes a more creative approach when it comes to crafting the categories and the questions. This version sees more unique ways to develop standard questions and a wider variety of question types than your basic general knowledge trivia question. Some of the newest styles of questions are exhibited in categories including “That’s How I Role” (contestant rolls a die to reveal how many clues they will be shown and must figure out the name of the actor/actress linked with the clues), “‘Nuff Said With Wiz Khalifa” (contestant must guess answer based on a couple of one-word clues) and “Mind Meld” (contestant predicts how Snoop Dogg completes a phrase). With the addition of these new categories, contestants will also need to rely more on luck and intuition to succeed. It’s pretty cool to see elements from other game shows, like Password Plus/Super Password’s puzzles and Match Game’s Super Match, utilized in this format.
The Structure: Not only does TBS’s The Joker’s Wild emulate the same front game format, the show also flows in the same smooth pace as the 1970s version. One of the biggest changes between the two versions is the seven-spin cap placed on both contestants. This version eschews the typical $500 goal for contestants to reach to win the game and replaces it with a two-round game and the spin cap to ensure no carryover matches occur. The cap in no way impedes on the progress or execution of an episode. It is still as enjoyable and easy to watch as the classic edition.
Snoop Dogg: I’m glad the producers made the decision to customize the show around Snoop Dogg. Providing Snoop Dogg with the creative license to tailor the show to his liking has helped him easily find his comfort zone in becoming a game show host for the first time. It’s no surprise to see him adapt to the role so quickly and easily grasp the mechanics and nuances of being a game show emcee given his decades of experience as a multifaceted entertainer in the music and television industry. He has excellent chemistry with the contestants and co-host Jeannie Mai and a natural presence behind the podium, guiding the game along in an excellent manner with his own flair and panache.
Overall, the TBS edition of The Joker’s Wild is a textbook example of how to properly revive a classic game show for modern viewers. TBS has aired some clunkers over the past few years, including Bam’s Bad-Ass Game Show, Trust Me I’m Gameshow Host and Deal With It. This is one of the best original game shows I have ever seen from the network. From integrating celebrity cameo appearances via video clips to the remixed main theme that will make you want to move and groove on your couch, this version is a lot of fun to watch and leaves you wanting more once it’s over. The changes made in this version, including swapping categories between rounds, keeps the show interesting at every twist and turn. The only minor criticism I have of the show was the contestants’ inability to steal a question upon an incorrect answer given by their opponent. After posting a strong performance on its first night by ranking in the top 10 of the top 150 original cable telecasts on Tuesday among Adults 18-49. There is no question that there is a very good chance The Joker’s Wild will be back for a second season.
Take a look at the miniseries “Gettin’ Wild With Snoop Dogg” on TBS’s YouTube channel for a behind-the-scenes look at how the revival came to fruition. Check out the latest episode in the clip below.
In case you missed the series premiere, check it out on TBS.com.