I was originally going to watch Monopoly Millionaires' Club on GSN Tuesday night, but it turned out, my market airs the new game show. Surprise, surprise, I only found out by searching for the show in my T.V. listings just minutes before the show premiered in syndication.
There's one thing to know about Monopoly Millionaires' Club: Just like Deal or No Deal, it's all luck.
There are five sections that the audience is divided up. In each section, there is a player represented that will go out with host Billy Gardell and play for the big bucks. The player can earn up to $100,000 in the first round and if they don't leave with $0, they come back for the final round where he/she can win the million. All winnings are split 50/50, half with the contestant and half with their portion of the audience. Simply, I don't get why the contestant doesn't win it all. They do all the work anyway.
In the first game, called "The Electric Company", light bulbs 1 through 10 were lined up (which I'm a little critical of with how the light bulbs were labeled). On a board in front of the contestant, there was a trail of light bulbs lined up consisting of increasing amounts of money. The contestant would then choose from the light bulbs labeled 1 through 10, which had hidden amount of steps behind them (1 through 10, but randomized), to advance on the money board. If the contestant reached the right amount of steps, she would get $100,000. If she want too far past the $100,000, she was get $0.
The light bulbs labeled 1 through 10 were randomized. For example, light bulb '2' could have been 6 steps and light bulb '10' could have been one step. It would have been better if the light bulbs were labeled with letters, because the numbers were misleading. For example, on this contestant's first choice, she chose light bulb '4', and it turned out to be four steps.
The contestant won $40,000. She was first going to stop at $10,000, then in each game, Gardell will say at that point how many "good options" and "bad options" are left. For example, if the contestant is exactly five steps away from the $100K (and six steps away from going bankrupt, because you cannot surpass the $100K) and steps 2, 3, 6, 7 and 10 remain, that means there are 2 "good options" remaining and 3 "bad options." Turns out, if this particular contestant went another round past the $40,000, she would have won the $100,000 because the next light bulb she would have selected had two more steps (which led exactly to the $100K).
Another strategy to Monopoly Millionaires' Club is to get all the very long (8, 9, 10) or short (1, 2, 3) options out of the way first. In "Ride the Rail", 1 through 10 options were provided again, just like in "The Electric Company". This time, train cars would ride by, round by round (the first round started with $1,000 per car and increasing money per car per round) and a series of train cars, ranging from 1 through 10, would pass until a caboose (aka "Bankrupt") would roll by. The contestant has the option to say "Stop" after a certain number of train cars rolls by that he/she feels comfortable stopping at. Then it is revealed how long the train was (1 through 10), then that length would be eliminated. For example, if the first train was eights cars long, then none of the remaining trains could be worth 8.
In "Ride the Rail", if the long options were eliminated first, then the contestant would have to know to stop the trains at an early point. Anyway, the contestant in this round won $100,000 ($50K for him, $50K split between many audience members).
The three final games, before the $1 million round, are also similar. One had a strike system, where if you hit one strike, it's a warning. Two strikes meant you split your money in half. Three strikes meant you lose all your money. It was probably best if the contestant stopped at one strike in that game.
Only one of the remaining four contestants gets to play the final round. The fifth contestant in the game did not get to participate since he walked away from his game with $0. The winning contestants from earlier get to choose if they want to go for the million or not. In order, from contestants with lowest to highest winnings, Gardell asks each contestant if they wish to play for the million or not (which risks their prior earnings). The contestants with the higher earnings get the final say. If they want to go for the million, they can but none of the others can. The contestant with the highest earnings went for the million.
The million dollar round is played on a giant monopoly board. Just like so many games in the prior rounds, dice are rolled and the contestant steps all the way around on the monopoly board. Going all the way around the board, the contestant earns small amounts of money (a few thousand dollars per square, cumulative). Once the contestant gets close to the million, they have to land perfectly on the million square to win the million. If they pass the million square, they win less money but still a significant amount of cash.
In this episode, the contestant did not win the million but won more than what he had before ($100K) and had to split his earnings 50/50 with the audience.
In case you did not know, Monopoly Millionaires' Club is filmed in Las Vegas. Billy Gardell does a very fine, calm job hosting the show. Gardell shows strong support and interaction with the contestants by rooting them on, hoping they win more money. When the contestant opts out of a challenge and it is revealed that if the contestant kept going and would have gone bankrupt, Gardell will support the contestant in their decision.
Overall, 4 out of 5 stars. Very well done. I am just concerned with ratings with syndication and GSN. First, Monopoly Millionaires' Club has been put in unpopular timeslots (and less popular networks, like the CW) in its affiliates. Second, are people really going to watch the GSN runs? I know most will not who have already seen the show in syndication, like myself.