TV & Radio
Is $1 million life-changing? Sure, I know it used to be. But nowadays by the time you've paid off your mortgage, taken the family on holiday and bought a couple of fripperies, I suspect you might find yourself back at work.
But regardless of the financial realities, in television quiz show terms, a million is the magic number. It rolls nicely off the tongue and is just enough to get people excited. It's probably why Millionaire Hot Seat (weekdays, 5.25pm, TV One) and new show Million Dollar Minute (weekdays, 5.25pm, TV3) both get it in the title.
Millionaire Hot Seat is the descendant of the phenomenally successful British show Who Wants to be A Millionaire. But it has been revamped for the dwindling attention span of the internet age. In this version, there are six contestants on stage at once and when one can't answer a question, they "pass" and join the back of the queue again. It's fast-paced, there are fewer questions and you can't phone a friend.
Apart from that, it's pretty much like the original. Genial host Eddie McGuire starts off with easy questions like "how many legs does a healthy dog have?" They get more difficult as soon as you get to any amount of worthwhile money. Mind you, sitting at home it always looks easy. On television, with all eyes on you, there's probably a bit more pressure. And the set alone is enough to make you panic - colours and lights and music and applause all hurled together in a sort of hideous, migraine-inducing carnival of the senses.
Million Dollar Minute is a bit more subdued. It kicks off with three contestants who go through several buzzer rounds competing against each other. A correct answer gets points. Finally, the one with the most points gets to go into the quick-fire million-dollar minute round.
I say "quick-fire" because there's not much time for the potential millionaire to answer the questions. The programme makers, however, drag the whole thing out way beyond interest levels by recapping every single question and answer after the round.
I understand they want to spin out the tension, but they drag it out so much I'd be surprised if the contestant's own mother hadn't wandered off to make a cup of tea halfway through.
It's entertaining enough, though, and host Simon Reeve seems like a pleasant bloke. He seems to tick all the quiz-show host boxes.
He's male, middle-aged and has no distinguishing features, other than a jocular manner and the ability to feign interest in mundane details about the contestants' lives.
And, actually, McGuire of Millionaire Hot Seat hardly even manages that. "Fantastic" and "Good on ya" are his two standard responses to contestant anecdotes, but they're said with all the interest of someone wondering whether his dry cleaning is ready for collection.
Oh, I know, it's easy to knock quiz shows, but they're also extremely easy to watch.
And, I must admit, I'd like to test that theory about whether a million is enough to change a life.
- The Dominion Post