Thursday, October 13, 2016

10 years since '1 vs. 100'

Bob Saget hosted 1 vs. 100 on NBC
from 2006-08.
Ten years ago today on a Friday night, 1 vs. 100 with host Bob Saget premiered on NBC. 1 vs. 100, a personal favorite of mine, only lasted two seasons on NBC. To this day, I believe 1 vs. 100 should have been renewed for a third season on NBC and later, an additional season of the one-and-done GSN remake.

I liked all formats of 1 vs. 100. The first NBC season, before the money ladder, featured the contestant, after answering the question correctly, earning money per each mob member knocked out (varied $1,000 for the first few questions, then $2,000, $3,000 and so forth). The money ladder was great too and a cheaper option.

Carrie Ann Inaba hosted 1 vs. 100
on GSN for one season in 2010. In the
summer of 2011, Inaba pushed GSN
for a second season but did not get it.
One downfall of the GSN version was the top prize at only $50,000. It drained the enthusiasm of the show coming off of the $1 million format shortly ago (not to mention GSN reruns at the time). My main problem with GSN's money ladder format, with $50,000 at the top, was that it felt like a contestant was playing the game for so long and answered many questions correct, but the contestant would only have $5,000 after a lot of hard work and run time.

Think about it. Millionaire worked well with the big money aspect. So did The Chase on GSN.

The GSN version of 1 vs. 100 did have a "$100K week", where the top prize was doubled which received high marks from the same people/groups who criticized the $50,000 prize as "too low".

The only criticism I have of 1 vs. 100, despite its two premature cancellations, were the "helps". "Ask the Mob", which was not included on the GSN version, was a waste. The contestant talked to two random mob members, one with the correct answer and one with an incorrect answer. With proper strategy, favoring the mob, the incorrect mob member could say "I am 100% sure because I know background on this question" while the correct mob member could say "I just guessed". Remember, the mob was supposed to be against the contestant. "Ask the Mob" was not used on the GSN version because some mob members, filmed by webcam, were previously recorded.

"Poll the Mob" and "Trust the Mob" were the better two. "Poll the Mob" did not pay off a lot while "Trust the Mob", a huge risk, mostly paid off.

Another criticism I had about 1 vs. 100 is that it was a very tough format on the solo contestant. A "Plus One" help, similar to Millionaire, would have given a better chance of success to a contestant. It was also extremely rough on 1 vs. 100 when a contestant answered one question wrong and left with $0. I thought there should have been an option where a contestant could opt out in the middle of a question, leave with half the money earned and the remaining mob members split the other half of the contestant's winnings. The good news was winnings were split between the remaining mob members (which was still a good chunk of change-usually hundreds or thousands of dollars per mob member).

1 vs. 100 was a ratings success. Why 1 vs. 100 did not get renewed on NBC? At the time, mid-2008, Deal or No Deal was fading and NBC apparently wanted to move on. Recall that the success of Deal or No Deal gave us 1 vs. 100 and at times, served as lead-in (8pm) to 1 vs. 100 (9pm). Why 1 vs. 100 did not get renewed on GSN? The original production halt of 2011-12 which tied up Lingo, Love Triangle, Drew Carey's Improv-a-Ganza and Baggage too.

1 vs. 100 can definitely be revived. I hope a network sees the potential.


  1. 1 VS 100 is definitely one of my favorite game shows of all time. Scott St. John (yay, Scott is a popular name now) is a veteran in the game show industry and he knew what he was doing when he produced this show, alongside Deal or No Deal. It also made sense having both shows back-to-back, one based entirely on luck, the other based entirely on skill (similar to the Wheel and Jeopardy combination).

    There were some production issues that were present in both the primetime and GSN versions though.

    On the primetime NBC version, for the first 5 episodes of Season 1, the money ladder saw constant changes, as it looked like they were still trying to figure out what were "acceptable" payout levels, according to the network. You have to remember that 1 VS 100 is one of the few game shows that guarantees the network will be paying out tens of thousands of dollars per episode, because regardless of whether the contestant wins or the mob wins, the network still has to pay out money, unlike in a typical game show where the network doesn't have to pay out squat unless the contestant hits a predetermined safe level.

    Starting with Episode 1-06, we saw visual updates to the set and money ladder, visual displays of the helps, new music themes for the questions and the mob, and the inclusion of the 3rd help, Trust The Mob. We also saw odd new rules implemented for the money ladder, having to get through the first 3 questions before getting the option to take the money or move to the $2,000 level, and then having to get through the next 2 questions before again being able to take the money, or move to the $3,000 level. But then every level after that was 1 question per level.

    A few episodes later... I think starting with 1-09... that's when they made another rule change, and modified the "Poll The Mob" help to prevent the contestant from speaking with the mob member during the use of it.

    1. From that episode onwards through 1-20's Season Finale, the rules finally stayed the same, except for the occasional special episode, such as the "Last Man Standing" one with Annie Duke, where no helps could be used, or the episode with the "Double or Nothing" rule at the end. I feel like this was one of the biggest issues with the primetime version. Even the episode with the $3,000,000 top prize felt strange; you triple the top prize knowing that the odds of winning it are almost impossible, but for some reason, you don't increase any of the other amounts on the money ladder?

      Then of course the much shorter 8-episode Season 2 came along, and again, we got revamped rules and a revamped set. This time it felt cheaper though, because unlike in Season 1 where the money amounts would continue to increase after every question and each eliminated mob member added money to your bank, in Season 2, the money amounts were set at predetermined levels and you were forced to eliminate 10 mob members before getting any extra money added to your bank.

      Those were the biggest issues for me with the primetime version. I don't mind changing the rules between seasons, but the first season alone saw the rules change multiple times throughout the first 10 episodes. You'd think they would've just had a standard rule set for the entire season and finish filming it, before starting to tweak the format and confuse the viewing audience, but this was NBC's fault. And then when the second season came along, NBC must've spent hundreds of thousands of dollars revamping the set and rules... only to film 8 episodes? Seriously, that's bad financial management right there. If you're going to commit to spending that kind of money on revamping the show, at least commit to a full 20-episode order.

      Then years later, we saw the GSN version, which was way too cheap on the payouts and had a bad host. Inaba's hosting felt scripted and like she was reading off a teleprompter instead of Saget and his natural ad-libbing comedy routine. And as you already mentioned above, the prize amounts were insanely cheap for what was supposed to be a big event game show, which conversely reduced the level of excitement and enthusiasm in the room, along with the at-home audience as well. Contestants could answer 10 questions, and still only have a few thousand dollars in their bank, not to mention the questions seemed a lot harder than on the primetime NBC version, probably intentionally implemented by GSN to reduce the payouts.

      GSN could've kept the $1,000,000 top prize and still no one would have won it. As it was, I think the highest amount any contestant won on the GSN version was $50,000 and that may have been during the "double money" week. If GSN was able to afford a $250k prize for Minute to Win It, and a $100k prize for Lingo, 1 VS 100 should've easily had $100k set as the standard top prize, if not $250k. Or like I said, GSN could've still set it at $1,000,000 just for the viewing and excitement factor, knowing that they'd never have to pay it out anyway considering the increased difficulty of the questions.

      TL;DR - Season 2 of NBC's version should've been 20 episodes instead of a measly 8, and it should've been renewed for a third season. And GSN's revived format should've had a higher top prize and a better host (they REALLY should have pushed for Saget, if not some other comedian to host it).

    2. The original 1 vs. 100 on NBC also had their own version of The Lucky Case Game called You vs. 100 for which I fell that the question were pretty easy to answer and not to difficult.

      And they also had an online XBOX Live version of the show years ago but I don't really understand why they never did one for DOND though.