“Press Your Luck” Review (2019 ABC Revival)

Set Design- 10
Gameplay- 10
Show Flow- 10
Potential Viewer Ratings- 9
Play-Along Factor- 5
Host- 8
Overall Rating- 8.6

Premise: Three contestants play against each other in two question rounds and two big board rounds. In the question rounds, four questions are asked to the contestants. Correct buzz-in responses are worth three spins and correct multiple choice responses are worth one spin. In the Big Board rounds, contestants take their spins and try their luck to win cash and prizes on the Press Your Luck board. If a contestant hits a Whammy at any point during the game, (s)he drops back to zero. Hitting four Whammies eliminates the contestant from the game. A contestant may opt to pass their earned spins to their opponent who is in first or second place (depending on their position) and force them to take all the spins unless they hit a Whammy while using their passed spins. The contestant with the highest score keeps their winnings and advances to the bonus game.

In the bonus game, the champion faces a new board filled with larger cash amounts and the contestant’s own selection of prizes. The champion plays a maximum of five rounds and must take every spin in each round (s)he decides to play. The same Whammy rules apply in the bonus game and the champion may choose to stop and walk away with their winnings after completing each round. If the champion reaches $500,000 at any point in the bonus game, their winnings instantly jump to $1 million.

Review: There is so much to discuss after watching the first two episodes of a revival of my all-time favorite game show and a cult classic I never thought I would ever see in my lifetime. I’m going to break it down one point at a time beginning with how we have arrived to the reboot of one of the greatest and most underrated game shows of all time. Scroll down to “What Press Your Luck ’19 Got Right” if you want to skip over me verbosely fawning over the classic show and jump to the crux of review.

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Why Is Press Your Luck My Favorite Game Show?

On its surface, it may seem like another loud and obnoxious game show where no skill involved and contestants have the chance to win thousands in cash and prizes for doing very little work like on Deal or No Deal or on just about any lottery-sponsored game show. But when you watch a few episodes closely and catch the intricacies and overlooked details which makes the game special in its own unique way, you will discover why Press Your Luck is so much more than just another dumb luck-based game show.

This is a game show where contestants who appear mild-mannered and even-tempered at the beginning of an episode become uninhibited and unapologetically expressive livewires the moment they come face-to-face with the big bucks.

This is a game show where not only need luck, but good timing, intuition, strategy and knowledge to maximize your chances of winning a king’s ransom on the Big Board while beating the Whammies, your opponents and the odds.

This is a game show where it’s not only a game of high stakes, but also a game of high risk. The seemingly innocuous game could instantly turn dangerous when scores reach the five-figure mark and there is no safety net to rely on to hoard a paltry percentage of your winnings. With each additional spin you take, you face the accumulating pressures of losing everything you’ve earned.

This is a game show that is intensely competitive where spins may frequently bounce back-and-forth between competitors like a thrilling tennis rally and there can only be one big winner who can walk away with the cash and prizes they have accrued when it’s all said and done (unless it’s a three-way zero tie – which has happenedtwice.)

This is a game show where spins are surprisingly nuanced and could turn from blessings to burdens to weapons to scarce resources you wish you had more of at any given moment.

This is a game show where each episode kicked off with a highlight reel montage filled with multiple moments that personifies the phrase “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat” to set the overall tone of the show.

This is a game show where there is virtually no limit to how much money you could win in a single game, as Larson best proved over 35 years ago when he beat the Whammy and CBS at their own game and won over $110,000 in one show.

This is a game show hosted by one of the most under-appreciated and under-acknowledged emcees in American television history in Peter Tomarken due to how much he livened the show with his quick-witted and wonderful sense of humor and how well he heightened the pace and excitement within each episode.

This is a game show that was innovative in brilliant and perfectly integrated animation in its format and creating a fun but frustrating mascot that will leave a lasting impression on anyone who watches the Whammies conceive creative and self-destructing ways to bankrupt contestants.

Although I am a huge fan of the old Press Your Luck, I’m not going to act like a pedantic putz about the new show and nitpick every single detail if it is not exactly duplicated from the CBS series. Moving on to the proper review, let’s see where ABC’s Press Your Luck succeeded and where it fell short.

What Press Your Luck ’19 Got Right

Following in the footsteps of Celebrity Family Feud, To Tell The Truth, The $100,000 Pyramid and Match Game reboots, this excellent revival of Press Your Luck once again exhibits why ABC is currently the king of game shows. By mostly staying true to the original series, the producers of the network version has amazingly resurrected the set and it’s casino-like atmosphere with glistening and gilded digital displays, the all-or-nothing classic format, the revamped theme music and the Big Board and all of its glowing glory.

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The cash and prize squares are properly inflated for primetime play and also enables contestants to make easier comebacks if they happen to be trailing by more than $10,000 or $20,000 with two or three spins to go. Unlike Whammy! where the board was overhauled with prizes, perhaps due to the show’s dependance on a plethora of sponsors to keep the cable game show afloat, the cash-prize ratio is similar to the CBS version and also features esoteric dollar values like the $2,675, $3,490 and $3,333 spaces. The board has excellent mechanics with the same great square changes between cash, action squares, prizes and Whammies, a slightly modernized board spinning cue as mostly heard in the 1984 slate of shows (although I enjoy the 1985-86 cue better – but I digress), the randomly-computerized light bounces at a moderate speed and the board smoothly fades with every change, which sometimes leads to contestants landing on a square which may switch on them at the last split-second to their delightful advantage or perilous demise.

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Although I do miss the 3-D Whammies on Whammy!, I love the reintroduction of 2-D Whammy animations. The characters have the same annoying, high-pitched voices and new mischievous gimmicks and quirky cartoon shorts, albeit much to the grimacing displeasure of the contestants.

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The same level of thrills, emotions, enthusiasm, competition, cutthroat strategy and suspense that will have you leaning closer to your television or laptop screen as seen in the ‘80s are on display in this series. Like the bucks, the Whammies are even bigger in this show as contestants are more likely to lose over $20,000 per Whammy hit this time around as the board and set glows red to match the little creatures’ hide. We’ve seen some shocking and painful losses so far this season that will make you physically cringe and audibly gasp and “ooh” such as Sam losing nearly $46,000 including a Jaguar on last Tuesday’s special preview episode and Owen losing over $53,000 on the final spin of the game in the second episode. Those emotions are exponentially exacerbated in the brand new bonus round.

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Honestly, I don’t care how many of today’s game shows are an hourlong. However, it perfectly works for Press Your Luck’s current format. You get the best of both worlds: the classic Press Your Luck game for fans of the original show and the bonus game for viewers who enjoy modern primetime game shows with solo gameplay, tear-jerking moments, million-dollar stakes and family support on the sidelines like on Deal or No Deal. The bonus game gives the champion one final opportunity to face the Whammies and a more personalized big board filled with wish list prizes and seriously big bucks that slowly rise from round-to-round from $10,000 to $15,000 to $25,000 to $50,000 up to $100,000 that could be won in a single spin.

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The tailor-made bonus game also makes it that much tougher for a contestant to decide whether to play the next round of spins – which they must use all the spins they are given as if they had been passed to them – and risk running into a Whammy or walk away with their bonus haul, especially if they land on a prize they had desired for a long time. The end game is a welcome addition to the show that doesn’t slow down the flow of the show and makes each episode that much more interesting and exciting to watch.

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As Elizabeth Banks takes control of this edition of Press Your Luck, Banks is doing a solid job with her first time hosting a game show. She moves each game along smoothly and converses well with the contestants while throwing in a few lighthearted quips here and there whenever a contestant hits a Whammy or prematurely buzz in while a question is being read and they are unsure of what the correct answer might be.

Where Press Your Luck ’19 Missed The Mark

There are only a couple aesthetic changes I would make to this version. The first is displaying the multiple choice options overhead the contestants during the question rounds. It’s like if Who Wants To Be A Millionaire were to forgo posting the question/answer graphics on the screen for the viewers play along with the show. The main use for the wide shot capturing the contestants podium and the giant PYL logo within the big board is to use it as a backdrop to display the three possible answers. Without the answers displayed, the shot looks empty and vacant. It just makes it more visually pleasing.

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The second is adding the win fanfare cue at the end of each game. It may not seem like much, but there is a bit of an empty feeling I receive whenever a game ends and I don’t hear the roughly six-second riff transitioning to main theme music while the champion is celebrating their newly solidified winnings. It places an exclamation point on a contestant’s victory. It’s like completing a level in Super Mario Bros. and not hearing its recognizable level clear music.

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Overall: This is an absolutely fantastic revival of Press Your Luck with a good host, a spectacular set design, great execution, wonderful Whammy animations, awesome competition, excellent and engaging gameplay and a perfectly  designed format. This version accomplished its task in making the proper adjustments and alterations to the original product to make the retro show palatable for today’s audience. Press Your Luck fans will be overwhelmingly pleased with this reboot along with the all-new million-dollar bonus game. I will be absolutely shocked if Press Your Luck is not renewed for a second season.

Catch up on the latest episodes of Press Your Luck on Hulu and ABC.com!

Stay tuned for new episodes of Press Your Luck Wednesdays at 8:00pm ET on ABC! Screenshots taken from episodes of Press Your Luck.

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