Downfall -- TV Review



Here's a list of the types of viewers who likely will enjoy "Downfall," ABC's new primetime game show that premiered at 9 p.m. Tuesday:
-- People under age 5
-- People over age 5 who are nonetheless entertained by seeing things crash and break
-- People who are stumped if asked to name a famous toy inspired by the hula
-- People who are intellectually overmatched by "Wipeout," which precedes "Downfall"

"Downfall" is played atop a downtown Los Angeles building that is described as a "skyscraper" but looks more like a 10-story warehouse or parking garage. To start each round, an obnoxiously overcoached contestant picks a category and then answers questions. It quickly becomes obvious one will never see these people on "Jeopardy!"

When the questions start, so, too, does a conveyer belt loaded with prizes and cash. Until the necessary number of answers are given, the conveyor belt carries the objects over the roof. Cameras record their descent into oblivion, followed by obligatory replays.

However, like a lot of this six-episode series, the prizes are phony. They are mere replicas of the actual prizes, built to fly apart upon impact. The cash is phony, too.

In a sense, even the top prize of $1 million is phony. Small print during the closing credits, legible only with the assistance of a pause button, explains that in the event there is a grand-prize winner, which seems highly unlikely, the money will be paid out over 40 years ($25,000 a year). Or the winner can get a lump sum based on net present value (perhaps about $200,000, depending on assumptions about future interest rates).

There are a few other rules. Players can use a panic button and repeat the round. If they do, the prizes are taken off the belt and one of their possessions is put on it. The first contestant put her old dining room set on the belt; the second risked a set of used golf clubs. It's hard to imagine anyone worried about the loss of these items except, perhaps, the local Goodwill outlet.

Another rule lets a player put a "partner" on the belt. Still another rule requires the contestant be dropped off the roof when the game ends. In both cases, individuals wear protective jumpsuits tied to bungee cords. As such, the descent is as exciting as a fast food drive-thru.

The only pleasant surprise in this hour of mindlessness is the work of the host, World Wrestling Entertainment's Chris Jericho. Whether because of his quick wit or his experience with phony situations, Jericho sets the best tone possible for someone tethered to this silly enterprise.

Airdate: 9-10 p.m. Tuesdays, June 22 (ABC)
Production: FremantleMedia North America
Host: Chris Jericho
Executive producers: Ken Warwick, Scott St. John
Line producer: Michelle Wilker
Producer: Brian Hawley
Production supervisor: Angie Rich
Director: Russell Norman
Associate director: Kate Moran
Art director: James Yarnell
Music: Levels Music Group
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