Set Design- 6
Show Flow- 7
Potential Viewer Ratings- 6
Play-Along Factor- 10
Overall Rating- 6.8
Premise: A contestant faces a maximum of 10 questions that increase in difficulty as the game progresses. The dollar values range from $1,000 up to $200,000. Correct answers advances the contestant to the next level and incorrect answers eliminates the opportunity to play for highest cash prize available and the contestant must rely on the kids panel to answer the same question correctly. The game ends when the contestant opts to cash out on question four or eight or when the kids panel answers incorrectly, leaving the contestant with nothing.
Review: It’s always fascinating to see game shows deploy formats that utilize adult contestants with child panelists. We’ve seen the formula used in Child’s Play in the ’80s, Small Talk in the ’90s and Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader in the 2000s. It’s fun to watch contestants attempt to pick the brains and read the minds of kids and how they respond to certain questions covering a wide range of topics or describe specific words or events in their own innocuous and juvenile manner. Child Support is no different.
The Ricky Gervais-produced game shows fuses the single-player/money ladder trivia element more popularly seen on Millionaire and the Save element from Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader? with the kid panel.
The rules of the game are incredibly simple and there is a surprising amount of risk the contestants endure while climbing the cash ladder with no multiple choice options, no additional lifelines aside from the kids saving them and only two milestones available to the players at questions 5 and 10. Unlike Millionaire, if a contestant answers correctly on a milestone dollar value and refuses to end the game with the guaranteed money, they have no safety net to fall back on and risk leaving with nothing. This is a breath of fresh air compared to other big money primetime game shows like Minute To Win It, where there is very little pressure placed on the contestants whenever they approach the larger sums because they are aware of the fact that they will still walk home with a lot of money, win or lose.
The main draw is producer Gervais’s humorous interaction with the exuberant and enthusiastic youngsters. The panel is comprised of a healthy and diverse balance of kids who are funny, outgoing, knowledgeable and filled with energy – much to the chagrin of Gervais at times who has the unenviable task of corralling the children to focus during the lengthy prerecorded Q&A session.
However, I believe the producers could have been more creative with this format by expanding it into at least a two-player/team dynamic. Multiple rounds could have been added to the format, including having the contestants predict whether or not the kids answered correctly, showing kids answering questions incorrectly and predicting which wrong answer they had given in multiple choice, and saving a streamlined version of the money ladder round for the end game. The show could also be reduced to a half-hour format. All game shows are not like The Price Is Right and work well in an hourlong format.
Overall, Child Support is a fairly decent game show with an average host in Fred Savage and it’s a fun way to kill an hour if you have nothing else to do or if you’re working and you just want to listen to something in the background. It doesn’t shock me one bit that this show was given a Friday primetime slot, the second worst day of an American television week next to Saturday. Although listening and watching how the kids react to pop culture questions – especially some of the tougher ones – is quite amusing, Child Support is nothing more than a carbon copy of Millionaire sans two lifelines. Given the fact that it is placed in an unappealing time slot, I don’t see ABC renewing this show for a second season.