How to Fix the Million Second Quiz

Million Second Quiz
Photo: NBC

NBC’s game show experiment Million Second Quiz ran out the clock Thursday night, with Andrew Kravis taking home $2.6 million. The show probably won’t be coming back, but if it does, here are my suggestions on how to fix the game.

Figure out the rules of the game before you start playing

One of the first red flags for the show could be found waving in the FAQ section of the app associated with the show. Anyone who earned at least 3,500 points in the app could apply to be a line jumper (more on that in a bit). However, before the live shows explained what it meant to be a line jumper, the FAQ said the rules of the actual game will be explained to people actually invited to play. I understand not wanting to give one version that may need to be changed later due to technical issues, but at least provide some basics in terms of potential time commitment.

No locals for line jumpers

One of the chosen line jumpers this season was a woman from Brooklyn, a person fully capable of heading down to the Hourglass to play the game and get on the show. Granted, the night she was picked there was particularly stormy weather affecting a good chunk of the eastern United States which may have caused flight problems. However, New York has the Amtrak Corridor to work with, so it would have been just as easy to get someone from Philadelphia or Boston or DC. Not so much Cleveland (ahem), but at least create the illusion that y’all are looking for some geographic diversity.

Better incorrect answers

One of the things that made Who Wants to Be a Millionaire so tantalizing was that, starting at about the $8,000 level, the incorrect answer choices would sometimes be close to the correct answer without being correct. An example of this missed opportunity was a question asking which Constitutional Amendment abolished slavery. Rather than having the choices be 12th, 13th, 14th, 15th, the choices were 6th, 13th, 19th, 24th (paraphrasing here). Being able to ballpark an answer in a timed battle is like bringing a grenade to a knife fight.

In fairness, the final bouts upped the challenge of the questions and had better wrong answers.

A tutorial on doubler strategy

This was one of the elements that wasn’t introduced until the first live show (and from what I saw on the live streams, was only available there). Granted, most strategy for lifeline elements is something you learn from other contestants, but there was an absence of common sense when it came to doubling or doubling back. The worst instance was at the end of the first bout on night three, when the player in the chair was ahead by 11 points. She was doubled on the final question, which she could have answered incorrectly without a problem. Instead, she double backed, making the question worth 12 points and giving her opponent a 1-in-4 chance in stealing her seat. Not only that, the correct answer to that question was C, so that’s a particularly stupid unnecessary roll of the dice. Fortunately for her, the opponent guessed wrong, but jeezy creezy y’all.

Let the contestant choose the final opponent

Each live show culminates with a round called the Winners’ Defense, which makes zero sense to me. I asked during Saturday’s show what the incentive is for any of the players on Winners’ Row to go up against the contestant. The show responded “Make more money!” While true, the pot odds of that situation make it a baffling wager, risking 200k for approximately 30k plus any additional bouts (which are not guaranteed). Also, one technical snafu (as we saw on Tuesday’s episode) could cost a player the game.

Also, it’s not really a defense — the Winners are the ones attacking the person sitting in the chair. It would make more sense if the player had the choice of who s/he wanted to challenge, with the Power Player distinction granting immunity. That would be the true test of endurance, as the Winners began colluding on sleep schedules to determine who would play each night.

Frankly, there’s too much to fix to make this a compelling game or show. As a major fan of the quiz show genre, I am disappointed.

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About Mike McComb 656 Articles
Mike has been writing about TV online since 2008, when he started the blog WTF Little House on the Prairie? The blog was a project to practice writing about television analytically prior to getting an MA in Television-Radio-Film from Syracuse University, or as he likes to call it "TV Camp." After a lengthy stint at TVLatest, Mike wanted to launch a site that brought in classic TV, diamonds in the rough, and the shows everybody watches. E-mail: mike@whatelseison.tv