Duel

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8-9:30 p.m. Monday-Tuesday, Dec. 17-18;
8-9 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday, Dec. 19-23
ABC

Although it premieres Monday night, you've seen ABC's "Duel" before. Maybe not exactly the way it's being presented over the next six nights -- but in clearly recognizable variations.

You've seen the multiple-choice questions in "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" and "Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?" You've seen a facsimile of the chip girls, former fashion models Olivia Fox and Jennifer Aguero, on "Deal or No Deal." You've seen the dramatic lighting practically everywhere, always combined with drum-saturated suspense music.

And then there's the artificial enthusiasm, clapping and jumping, which are practically endemic to the game show format.

There are a few new twists, of course.

"Duel" is set up as a six-day event with a group of 24 predetermined contestants. The first selects an opponent from among three picked at random. A winner emerges through a combination of knowledge and guesswork. That winner selects the next opponent while also piling up credits on a leader board.

On Sunday, the four top contestants on the leader board will compete among themselves for a prize in excess of $1 million.

"Duel" also borrows from the trash-talking world of professional wrestling. Contestants, identified by such names as the Lunch Lady, the Cab Driver and the Belly Dancer, are encouraged to diss one another before and during the quiz portion.

The conventional wisdom of new game shows is that viewers love the contrived suspense before the correct answer is revealed. "Duel" and amiable host Mike Greenberg, a "SportsCenter" anchor on ESPN, are less guilty of this type of emotional manipulation than other shows, but there still are plenty of phony pauses.

At one point in the premiere, impatient contestant Denise Carter (the Attorney) exclaims, "Oh, just get on with this." I wanted to leap through the TV screen and kiss her. Greenberg, however, just went ahead and postponed giving the right answer until after yet another commercial break.

Despite its twists, tweaks and fancy graphics, "Duel" is mostly dull and very typical of the new game show genre. If it catches on, ABC will have a new weapon as it marches into the writerless midseason campaign. If viewers grow weary of the formula, ABC will have spent relatively little, considering the seven hours of primetime the show covered.

DUEL
ABC
BermanBraun in association with Rocket Science Laboratories and French TV
Credits:
Executive producers: Gail Berman, Lloyd Braun, Chris Cowan, Jean Michel Michenaud, Charles Duncombe, David Rosconval, Francis Vacher
Co-executive producer: R.A. Clark
Producer: Tim Bock
Director: Mark Gentile
Production designer: Anton Goss
Lighting: Allen Branton
Art director: David Edwards
Music: David
Host: Mike Greenberg
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