I returned home after class Monday night and mother caught me up on the latest broadcast of Deal or No Deal. There were twins playing, and though they hadn’t gone home with the million dollars (we have yet to witness this), at least they came out of it with six figures.
It feels odd to turn a critical eye to Deal or No Deal, a popular game show, as no one is forcing the contestants to participate. After all, you’d have to be pretty naïve to go on any game show thinking the accountants (or producers?) are just aching to part with network money, but somehow DOND seems different - more orchestrated, more calculated, and more cynical.
For those of you who watch and enjoy the show on a regular basis, that last one may seem like a stretch. For the rest of you, let me bring you up to speed. It begins with 26 briefcases filled with set amounts of money, leading up to $1,000,000. The player picks one case at the outset and must decide how long they want to hold onto it. As other cases are opened, the amounts are ticked off and the odds shift either in or out of their favor.
There are ceremonious pauses (all the lights go red) during which The Banker makes an offer based on the aforementioned odds. The Banker is deliberately depicted as a phantom villain, making cutting remarks (albeit second-hand) and provoking the ire of the contestant. As the cases are opened and the pressure escalates, it gets harder and harder to ignore these offers on the chance that your original case holds the largest amount still in play.
My mother is a big game show fan (and I have to say, an MFA as well) and we’ve watched more than a few of them together - The Price is Right, Jeopardy, Hollywood Squares, Wheel of Fortune, Pyramid. Right away I started noticing differences about DOND: family and friends brought to the audience and stage to support and unwittingly confuse the player, as well as ratchet up the tension, and the impish Howie Mandell with his head shave and goatee mischievously cut to look like old Scratch himself.