Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Take It All- Reality TV Show Stunned Me Last Night

Howie Mandel at the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas
Howie Mandel at the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Last night we were channel surfing and there was nothing better on, so we decided to check out Take It All, a new game show with Howie Mandel. The first part of Take It All was incredibly boring. But, the last five minutes left me with my mouth hanging open in amazement.  I simply could not believe what I had just witnessed.

I knew nothing at all about the show.  But, we like game shows as a family and decided to check it out.  We often watch Wheel of Fortune or Jeopardy. One of the appeals of game shows is playing along pitting your "skills" against the people on the show to see how you'd do.  I also love reality TV.  I know it's supposed to be trashy.  But, I love the social aspect of shows like Survivor or Big Brother where there are no rules and situational ethics are really put to the test.  Is it OK to lie, cheat and steal in the context of a game? Should you cooperate or compete? Well, in the end, these are the ultimate questions put to the contestants on Take It All.  One of the interesting things about this show is you can have one huge winner, two very big winners or no winners at all.  It's up to the contestants to decide which is will be.  It's not random luck.  It's not a matter of skill.  The decision is put directly into their hands.  They can choose to win or they can choose to lose.  It could not be more straight forward.

The show is based on the old white elephant gift exchange. They start with five contestants.  There is zero skill involved in the show.  No need to have any knowledge. No questions.  No physical contests. The first person picks a prize at random.  He chooses a color and gets the prize behind that color.  He has a one in five chance of getting the most expensive prize. The goal is simply to be the person at the end of the round who has one of the top four most expensive prizes.  The person with the least expensive prize forfeits that prize and is eliminated.  The second person can choose to take a prize from the "Dream Screen" or to take the prize that the first person has chosen.  Each person is allotted one "lock" for the three rounds of the competition.  He can lock in that prize so no one can take it. Maybe I lied, there is some skill. But, the skill is being able to value a prize based on a 30 second description like "A hang glider, a week's worth of hang gliding lesson in North Carolina and airfare".  There are three rounds.  At the end of the third round, two people are left standing. They carry forward the prizes they have chosen to the final round where things really get interesting.

The prizes on the show, at least last night, were incredibly useless to most people.  The first round prizes ranged from $5,000 to $12,000.  The second round was in the $18,000-$24,000 range and the third round prizes were worth between $42,000 and $50,000.  The prizes were things like a 40' inflatable projection screen,  a hang glider, a $43,000 ruby ring and a barbecue boat (valued at $50,000).  There was a Mercedes  Benz in there (not the most expensive prize in the round BTW).

Going into the final round, each contestant had amassed around $80,000 worth of prizes.  The final round is a show down between the remaining two.  In the final round, each person chooses a random cash prize ranging from $25,000 to $250,000. Here is where things get really interesting.  The possible outcomes are:  1.) One person can walk away with it all.  All the prizes from both people and both of the cash prizes. He could net around $600,000-700,000 as I calculate it.  2.) Both people could walk away with everything each of them has earned up until that point, including the cash prize from the end.     Each would be guaranteed at least $100,000 in cash and prizes and upwards to around $350,000 or 3.) Mutual destruction.  Both people walk away with nothing.

The way the final round is played is very simple.  Each person has a choice of two options:  "Keep Mine" or "Take It All".  They face each other and are even given time to talk about what they are going to choose.  There are three possible outcomes:  1.) Each person says "Keep Mine"- if both people choose to cooperate and say "Keep Mine", both walk away richer.  They both keep what they have. 2.) One person says "Keep Mine" and the other says "Take It All".  In this scenario, the person who says "Take It All" walks away with everything.  The other guy loses.  3.) Both people say "Take It All" If both people say take it all, it's mutual destruction.  No one gets anything.

In last night's show the contestants were a young single black man there with his family and a divorced middle-aged white woman who was living with her ex-husband (?).  When they were given the opportunity to strategize each complimented the other on how hard they had worked to get there.  A whole hour of picking prizes is hard work I guess.  The guy said to the woman "I know you have a child and are living with your ex-husband". The woman said to the man "I know you want to give that ring to your mother.".  The guy started to choke up and made a comment about how he was about to cry.

They made their decision.  They locked in their choices.  There was no drama for me.  I just knew they had each decided to "Keep Mine".  And.... they both said "Take It All".  Two losers!  I was stunned. They had looked each other in the eye and lied knowing that each of them had the opportunity to change the other's life, at least a little.  I guess I'm naive.  I'm too trusting. I believed both of them. I know enough about game shows to know the contestants aren't random.  They choose people who will be entertaining, who are larger than life.  They choose people who are risk takers. They want people whoa are willing to take one more roll of the dice.  I'm neither of those personality types. So, I'll never make it onto one of those shows.  But, I was amazed that people had the chance to walk away with somewhere between $100,000 and $350,000 for an hour's work, all they had to do was choose to allow the other person to have the same opportunity and they choose to be greedy instead.

Take It All is a pretty terrible show.  I don't think it'll be on long.  I doubt that I'll watch it again.  But, that episode last night was shocker for me.
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shelly said...

If you didn't like this, you wouldn't have liked a game show from ten years ago called 'Friend or Foe'. It aired on Game Show Network (GSN) and had a Prisoner's Dilemma element to it similar to the end game of 'Take It All'. (You can google 'Friend or Foe' to find out more. There may even be episodes on Youtube if you're feeling brave.)

kc bob said...

Sad. Behavior on these reality types of shows is sometimes so revealing. Guess it is why I don't watch much reality tv - except the shows on HGTV.

Brian said...

I can't take my eyes off it, Bob. I love watching human nature. This one really set me back though.

Blog Girl said...

Wow. What a hard article to read. That show would piss me off too, Brian. To think that people want to actively and publicly display greed like that is just gross. And to lie to each other beforehand, they got what they deserved. Sadly.

Brian said...

Yeah, Tamra. Well, one of the things I love about reality TV shows is they really make me think hard about situational ethics. I'd definitely lie on Survivor. I'd draw a line somewhere. But, I'd lie. I'd break alliances.

But, something about that show disturbed me. They literally could have made a pact to both win. Most shows are one winner. They had an opportunity for a win-win. If I'm competing to win, I'm going to go for the win. But, if I can sacrifice a little so the other guy can win, too. Why not?

I DVRd the show last night. I might just buzz through to the last round.