Fort(Night): Top Game Show Highlights In The Past Two Weeks

Today’s article recaps some of the most memorable moments in the game show universe within the last couple of weeks (May 23-June 6) from the ABC version of The Chase showing a dramatic season-to-season improvement to the U.S. getting its first look at TBS’ rendition of The Cube.

The Chase Improves By Taking The “Less Is More” Approach

Let’s start with The Chase. I mean – WOW. The second season premiere of the U.S. adaptation of the hard quizzer from the U.K. is the perfect example of what happens when television producers and executives listen to their fervent fanbase and heed their objectively sagacious counsel and constructive criticisms regarding how to improve their shows. The glaringly massive issues seen in the first season that made ABC’s version of The Chase difficult to watch and enjoy have been remedied. The Cashbuilder is reduced to a more satisfactory sum of $10,000/question (vs. $25,000/question) to ensure that it doesn’t horrendously fracture the mechanics of the game and Sara Gaines’s question-reading speed has noticeably improved with the host shaving her average time to 3-4 seconds/question (vs. 4-5 seconds/question). Gaines also appears to feel more comfortable as the host of The Chase in this season thus far. Although I’m still not too crazy about the quick cutaways to offscreen commentary from the Chasers’ Lounge, fixing those two crucial problems that severely hindered the game play made a significant difference in the overall quality of the series (and I hadn’t even discussed “The Beast” Mark Labbett’s pleasantly surprising return to the States!)

Add this season of The Chase to your DVR lineup. If the rest of the season is anything like Sunday’s episode – which featured the first 20-step Final Chase of the ABC series and Ken Jennings absolutely obliterating that target set by the trio of surviving contestants – it will be definitely worth the watch this summer.

Mental Samurai Revamps Its Format

Speaking of DVR-worthy shows, FOX’s Mental Samurai is another excellent game show that doesn’t get as much love as it should. There are several welcomed changes made to the show’s second season. Instead of answering twelve questions in five minutes for $10,000 and a chance to four additional questions in the Circle of Samurai for $100,000 and qualify for the $250,000 season-finale tournament, contestants are now engaged in a head-to-head competition to answer a maximum of 10 questions in the fastest time. Each question is worth $500 and the contestant who performs the best in each episode is crowned the “Reigning Samurai”, plays the Circle of Samurai end game for an additional $100,000 and returns the following week to defend their championship.

I absolutely love these changes for two reasons: they reintroduce two rarely-seen tropes in primetime game shows nowadays – sending losing contestants home with consolation prize money and returning champions. The addition of these elements accompanied with how immersed host Rob Lowe is in the game (even going as far as to hop into Ava and taking on Mental Samurai himself), makes this underappreciated game show even more enjoyable to watch.

Buzzy Cohen & Mayim Bialik Guest Hosting Jeopardy!

After a dredging through a rather lackluster couple of weeks watching 60 Minutes correspondent Bill Whitaker take the helm, Jeopardy! regained its momentum with a month filled with Buzzy Cohen hosting the 2021 Tournament of Champions and Mayim Bialik taking over for the following two weeks.

Winning the 2017 Tournament of Champions and over $410,000 during his championship run, Cohen brought his A-game to the lectern straight out the gate from his first episode and brilliantly showed-off his fantastic hosting skills with his affability, enthusiasm, injecting his wide range of general knowledge in certain clues and the excellent manner he maintains the rapid-fire pace of the show. He is definitely one of the more charismatic guest hosts we’ve seen so far. It’s not difficult to see why Alex Trebek nicknamed him “Mr. Personality”.

Bialik isn’t any different when it comes to her hosting style. The neuroscientist and former star of The Big Bang Theory has been an absolute joy to watch so far. Before and throughout the week, Blalik has shown through social media how excited and thrilled she was and is to have the rare privilege to host the revered syndicated quiz show. 

Spending the past month watching these two television personalities work their magic on Jeopardy! has been an absolute treat along with the tournament concluding with Sam Kavanaugh winning the $250,000 top prize and those earnings matched for the show to donate to Hope of the Valley Rescue Mission, which recently opened the Trebek Center homeless shelter.

Press Your Luck Back For Season Three

The high-stakes/high-risk game show has finally returned with its COVID-friendly renovated set. Although the studio is absent of an adulating audience, Press Your Luck does its best to maintain the same level of excitement by inviting select friends and family members to support their fellow contestants, bringing back the cold opening highlight montage of contestants striking it rich and adding a new space (Take The Lead + A Spin) that guarantees any contestant a chance to make a last-spin comeback in any game. It also doesn’t hurt that the first episode kicked off with a returning three-time winner from the ’80s version retaining her championship and scooping up a massive sum of $367,087.

TNT Previews The Cube 

Following TNT’s doubleheader NBA playoff games on Saturday, May 29, TNT treated viewers to a full episode sneak peek of TBS’s version of The Cube. Another U.K. import which first premiered on ITV in 2009, a team of two contestants play a maximum of seven simple games inside of a seemingly-sentient 13ft x 13ft x 13ft enclosed cube for a chance to win up to $250,000 before exhausting their nine lives. Former NBA champion and longtime Miami Heat shooting guard Dwyane Wade hosts this international version of the much anticipated, suspense-inducing stunt game show.

Judging by what I’ve seen from the preview episode, this is a solid version of The Cube. This version largely sticks to the original format while making great alterations to the series to make it more unique, such as replacing the “Practice” assist with “One Shot” that puts the pressure on Wade by playing a game inside The Cube to either successfully win one for the team – or lose them a life. I also love how they’ve given The Cube more of a personality. (It shows a lot of resemblance to HAL 9000 – sans its homicidal tendencies) The show officially premieres Thursday, June 10 at 9:00pm ET.

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