OK, picking on Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader? is a bit like picking on, well, a 5th grader. But it must be said: Dopey doesn’t begin to describe the new Fox gamer.
One of the contestants on the Jeff Foxworthy-hosted show last night was Phillip, an ebullient young man who was unbelievably excited to be on the program. I say unbelievably because that’s just what it was—not believable. While the best game-show contestants are the over-the-top freaks whose hearts threaten to fly from their chests (or, in the case of that famous Price is Right hopeful, whose tube top flew from her chest), Phillip’s campiness seemed fake. It felt like the stakes were so high with a prime-time game show that the producers decided to hire actors to play real people.
And while not every game show needs to have the intellectual high-hurdles of, say, Jeopardy!, 5th Grader was just too darn easy. Mind you, not the questions themselves—if I’d encountered geometry and earth science questions that nasty in fifth grade, I’d still be in it. But the “cheats” offered the contestants took away any need for skill or savvy.
For instance, Phillip—who pulled a 3.7 GPA at Northern Illinois, if you believe the show’s graphics—had a world of trouble with the first question, which according to game-play, was first-grade level. See, Phillip did not know which month marks the end of summer. “I know it’s August or September,” he said.
After several moments of pained thought processes (it looked as though his brain was giving birth), Phillip decided summer ended in August. (A 3.7 GPA! I saw it on the screen!). Lucky for him, he was able to call on a fifth grade girl for help. The tyke informed Phillip that summer in fact ended in September, and he was still in the hunt for a million.
But I wasn’t going to stick around and watch. Upon changing the channel, it was the smartest I’d felt all night.
By Michael Malone