Million Second Quiz: Not Numberwang

Million Second Quiz
Photo: NBC

NBC’s 10-day quiz show extravaganza the Million Second Quiz began Sunday morning and aired its first episode Monday night. However, like any other project associated with host Ryan Seacrest, there was more vamping and filler than the content the audience is seeking.

Taking a page from when ABC launched Who Wants to be a Millionaire back in 1999, the quiz features contestants applying to be on the show in real time. One by one, each contestant waiting in line outside a giant, open air hourglass in New York City, enters a 300-second “bout” with a champion who sits in the “money chair.” Whoever sits in the chair earns $10 for every second s/he remains seated. If a challenger unseats the champ, s/he assumes the money chair and starts to earn money. Actually, s/he will start to earn points. Only the top four contestants will have a chance to win cash. More on that later.

The other way a person can become a contestant is through the show’s app. Starting in mid-August, those who downloaded the app could play 10-question bouts with random opponents across the country. Once an at-home player earns 3500 points, s/he becomes eligible as a “line jumper.” Each day, a line jumper will be whisked away to New York, appear on The Today Show, then take part in the live show’s second bout. The app can also be used to sync up with the live show so the viewer can play along with the contestants. This feature would have been awesome if there was enough quizzing during the hour-long program.

In the 60 minute program, there were only three bouts– two at 300 seconds each and one at 400 seconds. That means only 1000 seconds of game, which translates to 16 minutes. That’s awesome for whoever is sitting in the money chair. On Monday’s episode, 2600 seconds of sitting around doing nothing means $26,000 getting added to the current champ’s score. That doesn’t seem fair for the contestants whose games aren’t being interrupted with prepackaged videos of contestant backstories.

The core of the game is simple, engaging, and reminds me of what was so mesmerizing about Millionaire when it debuted. However, NBC’s insistence on molasses-like pacing and overly convoluted rules has turned the show into straight-up trolling for quiz show die-hards. It makes Numberwang from That Mitchell and Webb Look seem like Tic Tac Toe.

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About Mike McComb 911 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: