Last night marked the second season premiere of TBS’s hit primetime game show, The Joker’s Wild. In addition to the show moving to its new Sunday night timeslot, this season brings a surprising amount of noticeable changes – some good, some “meh” and some pleasingly surprising to the point where it made me audibly gasp and bemusingly ask “Whaaaaaat is this?!” while smirking at the television. Here are the following second season alterations:
Jeannie Mai Removed as Co-Host: While Mai and Snoop Dogg had a seemingly friendly rapport and good chemistry in the first season, her role as “Lady Luck” was ancillary given her co-hosting duties only included describing the front game rules, the categories when they first appear and cheering on and supporting the contestants. I can see why the producers did not bring her back this season when all of the aforementioned tasks can be handled by the host. I am glad she served more of a purpose (albeit minimal) on this show than being a co-host/cast member who didn’t do much except take up space (see Julie Friedman on Pictionary and Debbie Sue Maffett on the Lucky Numbers pilots).
More Category Celebrity Cameos: Last season, we had the chance to see special guest appearances by celebrities, including Regis Philbin, Seth Rogen, Michael Strahan and Wiz Khalifa. This year has more new stars featured in various new categories, including Matthew McConaughey and Paris Jackson – seen on last night’s show – Bill Nye, Adam Devine and Aubrey Plaza.
Category Selection Slimmed Down To Four: Instead of five categories spinning on the reels of the giant slots, only four categories will be shown per round. The categories are “remixed”only after the first round. This is a subtle change, but still one worth noting.
Top Prize Doubled to $50,000: This was perhaps the most surprising change considering the original $25,000 set for the first season is a great grand prize for a cable game show and new game shows rarely increase their fixed top prizes within a short period of time. The new $50,000 grand prize also raises the stakes across the whole format, as I will cover within my next few points.
Front Game Now Features Three Rounds: The Joker’s Wild has added a third round to the main game worth triple the dollar value ($300 for single, $600 for double, $900 for triple, $1,500 for 3 Jokers). The spin totals throughout the game have been slightly reduced from seven per contestant (four in the first, three in the second) to six (two per rounds). Although the spins have decreased, the third round gives contestants better opportunities to make four-figure comebacks late in the game and a chance to earn even more money.
“Slang That Thang”: This was another eyebrow-raising moment (in a positive sense) for me while watching yesterday’s season premiere. The third-round feature allows contestants to pass a question to their opponent in hopes of them answering incorrectly and the contestant earning the value of the question by default. This is an interesting kink in the game and a welcoming change that has not been seen in the two previous incarnations of the show.
“Beat The Devil” Slots Mechanism Slightly Altered: The bonus round has also received an upgrade. The host and contestant are now placed behind a podium beside the giant slot machine lever. On the podium is a large, flattened oval-shaped button for the contestant to stop the reels after they pull the lever. This allows contestants to be more in control of their own fate, sort of like Press Your Luck (or Second Chance in this case since we’re talking about avoiding devils). I thought it was a bit extra and unnecessary at first, but it eventually grew on me.
Bonus Round Now Features Let’s Make A Deal Twist: Also on the new bonus round podium is a black box inscribed with the show’s logo. The black box plays a role when a contestant is close to the $10,000 goal and Snoop offers a few thousand dollars more combined with their current bonus round total to entice them to walk away with a sure deal. Last night’s LMAD moment, which included a $4,000 offer, would have guaranteed the contestant to leave with more than $14,000. When I stated the top prize increase to $50,000 had a domino effect by raising the stakes throughout the entire show, I wasn’t just whistlin’ Dixie.
The Natural Triple Win Returns (Sort Of): Beginning this season, contestants can now beat the devil by spinning three jokers in the bonus round. However, spinning a natural triple with any other slot value still does not equal an automatic win like in the Barry & Enright version. I’m not sure why this rule was absent from the first season.
Overall, there aren’t any changes I noticed between seasons that ruin the format and how entertaining, fun and engaging it is to watch The Joker’s Wild. Make sure you tune in for new episodes every Sunday night at 10:00pm ET on TBS and watch the latest episode on TBS.com in case you missed it yesterday.