Monday, December 19, 2022

The Wheel, on NBC

We do a terrible job teaching civics in the United States. When I say terrible, I mean absolutely pitiful. If you did not already suspect as much, this new game show will convince you. There is definitely room for a new high-end quiz show in the tradition of Jeopardy. This isn’t it, but to be fair, the participants probably suffer from dizziness induced by its human roulette wheel format in creator-host Michael McIntyre’s The Wheel, the American version of which premieres tonight on NBC.

McIntrye has already had great success with the first three seasons of the original
Wheel in the UK. That is also why McIntyre is hosting the American version, instead of Ryan Seacrest, or whoever. The structure is kind of clever. Six celebrity judges are seated around the titular wheel and a randomly selected contestant pops up from the middle. Each celeb functions as an expert in a given category. The contestant choses a category and “turns off” whomever they think knows the least about the subject. When the wheel spins, if it lands on the “canceled” celeb, they lose their turn, but if it lands on the specialist, they win double, if together they come up with the right answer.

Of course, many of the categories are about inconsequential fluff like Beyonce Knowles. When the category is something legitimate, like “elections,” the results can get ugly—really ugly. They also lack a regular “expert” the show can rely on for a snarky quip, like Paul Lynde, the perennial center square on
Hollywood Squares. On the first three episodes provided for review, pro-wrestler and star of The Marine franchise Mike “The Miz” Mizanin probably displays the slyest humor. Someone like Ben Stein could really add a lot to the show, with his quick wit and command of what should be considered general knowledge, but he probably wouldn’t be down for the spinning.

For game shows like this, the winning and losing are not as important for home viewers as the opportunity to compare and contrast their answers with those of the contestants. Yet, it is hard to get much satisfaction from exhibiting greater knowledge of
Beverly Hills 90210. (Tori Spelling will be the expert for that category—and she is a good sport. For what it’s worth, I once saw her graciously sign autographs for all the wait staff in a New York restaurant.)

Mashing up roulette,
Trivial Pursuit, and Hollywood Squares is a promising concept, but the execution needs to be smarter. Watching the flubs in these early episodes is pretty painful. Consequently, The Wheel is not recommended for fans of shows like Jeopardy or Master Minds when it premieres tonight (1219) on NBC and streams tomorrow (12/20) on Peacock.