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Fox orders game show 'Million Dollar Money Drop'

Fox's Mike Darnell and Endemol's David Goldberg on the nerve-wracking new series that makes "grown men cry."

Fox has ordered a new game show that gives every contestant a million bucks.

Then slowly takes it away.

The network has greenlighted Million Dollar Money Drop from Deal or No Deal producers Endemol.

The setup: Two contestants are given $1 million in cash and work as a team to answer seven quiz questions. During each round, they must risk all their money -- either on one answer if they're confident, or spread the betting across multiple answers to try and play it safe. Any money bet on wrong answers disappears through the "money drop." After the seven questions, the contestants get to keep the money -- if there's any left. 

Kevin Pollak (A Few Good Men, The Usual Suspects) will host.

Here's Fox president of alternative Mike Darnell and Endemol North America chairman David Goldberg taking questions about Million Dollar Money Drop:

THR: Fox is very successful on the reality front, yet I don't think any other network is more selective about putting these shows on the air. Why is that?

Darnell: As you know, 95% of reality on network TV has been pretty bad and dies very quickly, usually over the summer. I try to be more picky because I don't like that much failure. Also, we don't have that many open slots. I put Masterchef on and that's going to become a stable. I don't have the need or the place to have a lot of new reality. We had years when we had too many holes and we put on too many shows and they didn't work.  

Goldberg: The other thing too is a testimony to your ability to identify a good show. When I pitched this to you in March it was just starting to roll out and you agreed to do it. And from that point on we've sold this show in 13 markets.

Darnell: All they pitched me and is an animated version of the show. It's a new trend. It's effective when it works. Its more cost effective and looks better than a presentation.  

Goldberg: I'm not going to say its the next Deal or no Deal, but it's showing the same pattern. Everywhere it's been, it's done well.

THR: What made this game show stand out?

Darnell: It's a very simple concept that was gripping and dramatic. Almost every show pitched in the last 10 years have had some element of Deal or Millionaire with the money ladder climb. This is the reverse of that. No bullshit, it's real money. The simplicity is it looks like you should be able to win this game. It's nerve-wracking, more so than any game I've seen in last five years. It's the first game show where every question is dramatic. It actually feels like you're losing it when you're losing it. It's a traumatic experience trying to hold onto the money.

THR: Sounds like a hard game.

Goldberg: It isn't easy. But the questions are very accessible. You don't have to be a game show wonk to follow it. But we've had grown men cry on this show. They can smell it and see it and touch it, and all they have to do is navigate this mine field.


Fox has some of the biggest reality titles on TV (American Idol, Hell's Kitchen, So You Think You Can Dance), but tends to be selective about launching new unscripted series. The broadcaster launched only one new reality title in 2010: Gordon Ramsay's summer cooking series Masterchef, which was successful enough to score a second season.

Quiz shows can be a tough nut to crack on broadcast but can pay off handsomely when they work. In decades past they packed primetime. In recent years only an occasional title has caught fire. Who Wants to be a Millionaire burned bright for ABC starting in 1998. Endemol's own Deal or No Deal ran for years on NBC starting in 2007. That same year, Fox had success with quiz show Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader.

Jeff Apploff (Don’t Forget The Lyrics!) is executive producer, and Garry Bormet and Jack Martin serve as co-executive producers. Million Dollar Money Drop premieres Dec. 20 at 8 p.m. and will air for four consecutive nights during the holiday week.

Here's some video of the UK version: