Deal or No Deal?

- Wade

You know the show. Even if you don't watch it, you know it. I watch it. I'm not even convinced that I like it very much. But I don't miss it.

Okay, fine, maybe you don't know the show. The premise is this: a contenstant is presented with 26 cases, each containing a dollar amount ranging from one penny to one million dollars. Said contestant picks one case as theirs, and then begins to eliminate the remaining cases, while viewing the amounts in each of these cases to see what their case *doesn't* contain. Then, at various intervals, the contestant gets a call from the ubiquitious banker who offers an amount to buy the case back-- that amount varies based upon the amounts of money eliminated to that point. The game ends when the contestant either accepts an offer from the banker or eliminates all cases but his or her own.

It's really not as complicated as it sounds.

So it's a game of luck and timing. You could argue that there's some skill involved, but only if the contestant uses-- gosh-- math to determine their odds. This rarely happens. What you do get is lack of logic ("They would never put two large amounts in cases that are next to each other") and sheer greed. Oh, and you get this:

If you're like me, at first you have no idea who that is. Let's see if I can help out here:

That's right, Canada's own Howie Mandel! I think it was the hair that threw me. Oh, and the fact that he doesn't host the show with a laytex glove over his head. Call me crazy... but I find that Howie does a pretty good job at hosting the show. He's witty, dresses sharply, and does the "ooooh, this is really dramatic" thing nicely. Plus it's really fun to contrast his good-guy persona on the show with his monologue from The Aristocrats.

There are other aspects of the show that keep me coming back for more. For one, they manipulate the audience using sound and lighting in such a way that holds your attention, and also makes the similar effects from "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" seem silly. And yet, they never seem to take themselves too seriously: for example, when a contestant whose day job was a clown was on the show, the banker's silhouette featured a clown's nose. And a banker's offer to a woman who said that a portion of her winnings would go to improving her bald husband's look included a hair transplant. Regis never had this much fun.

But what really brings me back to this show three (yes, three) times a week are the intangibles. For one, the sense that-- given the right combination of luck and timing, any contestant could walk away with hundreds of thousands of dollars. For two, I like having the idea that I'm smarter than all of these people. To wit-- a common quote from yours truly during the show sounds like this: "You've got an 18% chance of knocking out the top amount, and there's only a 37% chance of lowering the deal after you pick the next case; why in the world would you take the deal now? Idiot." Relatedly, there's always some back-of-the-napkin figuring as to what the banker offer algorithm is, exactly. For three... did I mention who's holding the cases?

Right. The testosterone angle. The ladies. Accompanying each case is a "model"-- case-candy to keep a certain portion of the show's audience entertained. At the beginning of each episode all of the cases are brought out by these scantily-clad women whose only occupational responsibilty appears to be a) looking nice and 2) opening her case when directed to do so by Mr. Mandel or his designate. Skill-wise, these women could be replaced by poorly trained monkeys.

Not that I'm suggesting such a thing.

The blatant use of attractive women to do sub-Vanna work on DOND appears to offend no one, including my wife-- which is rather important. There appears to be little consternation in my house when my favorite case gets picked-- number 10, always held by Anya-- for some reason. I don't ask questions.

Regardless... I can't help tuning into this show. It's like crack, or Sudoku. Try it sometime, if you've got three hours a week to kill.

-WA


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