Monday, September 08, 2008

Hole In The Wall Was A Hole In My Night.

I wasted half an hour on Sunday night watching FOX's new game show Hole In The Wall. It gave me a headache. When the show stopped so did the headache. Draw your own conclusions.

Or better yet, I'll draw one for you, and use just two words and an exclamation point to do so – It sucked!

Of course you knew it would. Marc Berman talked about this show in his Programming Insider podcast and stated that it seemed like "summer fare" with respect to Marc, he's undervaluing summer shows. I'd rather watch most of them than Hole In The Wall.

Ah, you may ask, but what makes this show so awful? After all you've probably watch the YouTube clips from Japan and other places of "Human Tetris" and laughed yourself silly. This is the same thing, so why doesn't it work? There are a lot of parts to the answer but what it really comes down to is this; a ten minute clip on YouTube in a language that you don't understand showing an event that you don't know the rules of is far different than a half hour show in a language that you understand and rules that you get. And there are plenty of annoying things in addition to that.

The show is hosted by Mark Thompson who is the local weather and lifestyles reporter at FOX's LA affiliate KTTV and has worked for the network in a number of other network reality shows as well as some acting work. The floor reporter is actress Brooke Burns who may be best known for appearing on Baywatch but was also the host of the NBC series Dog Eat Dog a few years ago. There's not much for either one of them to do. Brooke gets to talk to the contestants for a few moments who are in two three person teams. Not that the contestants on the first episode had much to say – mostly they stood around posing taunting the other team. And really she had more to do than Thompson whose principal role was to explain the number of holes (and therefore the number of people who would be participating). There's not much more to the roles of either host.

As I mentioned the game involves two teams of three. The members of each team are linked by common occupations or interests. In the first episode there was one team of body builders called "The Six Packs" and one team of overweight radio station employees called "The Beer Bellies." There are four rounds to the game before a final grand prize round for the team that earned the most points in the preliminary rounds. In the first round one person had to fit through a hole cut in a moving Styrofoam wall. If he (the first episode had two teams of men although supposedly subsequent episodes will pit men against women) made it through he got one point for his team; if he didn't he got dunked in a pool. Then a player from the other team faced a different opening. In the "Double Wall Round" the other two players on each team had to try to fit through one or two holes. Of both players did it they earned two points for their team, although it wasn't made clear in the introduction to the round what would happen if only one made it through (apparently the team wouldn't get any points). In the Triple Wall Round" all three team members had to pass through one or three holes. Finally, in the "Speed Round" all three members of each team participate, trying to pass through holes in the wall which is moving towards the team members at twice the normal speed. In this round, if some members of the team pass through a hole while the others fail, the team gets points equal to the number of players who get through. If all three players pass through the "Speed Wall" they win an extra $5,000. The team with the most points after the four rounds wins $25,000 (plus the $5,000 if they passed through the Speed Wall) and the chance to play in the grand prize round.

The grand prize round is known as the "Blind Wall." One member of the winning team is blindfolded (actually give a set of goggles to wear that don't admit light) and has to pass through a hole guided only by instructions from the other members of his team. If he manages to accomplish this, his team will add an extra $100,000 to their prize fund. Needless to say this seems close to impossible and "The Six Packs," who won the first show, failed miserably at it.

There were several things that I find annoying about this show. The sound seemed to be set up so that everything that the announcers and even the contestants said seemed to have a slight echo, like an announcer at a sporting event. The mugging, posing, and taunting by the various contestants was way over the top, particularly the supposedly "amusing" antics of the "Beer Bellies" who, given a chance to wear Spandex for the first – and hopefully last – time in their lives proceeded to give us shows of them wiggling their flab. And there was the audience who seemingly cheered and applauded this mess as though it were every play in a tight Super Bowl game. Presumably they were exhorted to do this by the producers because for the life of me I couldn't see anything that exciting in this mess.

In the end however I can't see much that's entertaining about this show. As I said, the YouTube clips were funny, almost certainly because we got them in small doses, and we didn't have a set of rules or anything that we understood about what was going on. The clips were just another example of one of those crazy Japanese game shows. Viewed with an understanding of what is going on it stops being funny and turns into something really stupid. Brooke Burns old series, Dog Eat Dog was far more engaging than this mess. About the only thing worse than a half hour of this show would be a whole hour of it. And before you laugh at that prospect, be aware that when FOX ordered this series they ordered thirteen hour long shows although it was done with the understanding that they could be split into twenty-six half-hour shows. For once I'm hoping that this mess will turn out to be a ratings disaster of the highest magnitude and that FOX will pull the trigger on it quickly. For all of our sakes.

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