LAST EDITED ON 12-06-11 AT 05:10 PM (EST)
The show is called You deserve it, and up until now, ABC has been burning it off on Sunday afternoons as we-can-never-beat-football filler. But with every reality show they've got in abeyance until next year, they finally put one on in primetime and gave me the chance to see how he works in a slightly different genre.
At least for me, he doesn't.
The show's premise: people do not play for themselves. Instead, they nominate someone they feel truly deserves a large financial gift and all money won goes to that worthy. The recipient only finds out the show even took place at the end of the hour. (Last night's recipient: a soldier who lost a leg in Iraq. No arguments on worthiness, then dragged himself around the debris field helping everyone else and refusing to be evacuated until all had been cleared.) The maximum money possible is $435,000 -- but that's never going to happen, because the format won't let it.
There are only three categories: Who, What, Where. There are five rounds, and you play all five no matter what. Ten clues are available for each round, with the first one provided free by the host. Each additional clue costs you money. (So you only max out if you guess the right answer five times in a row based on a single vague hint each.) How much does it cost you? That's random. The max money available in each round is divided into nine amounts, with the lowest being one percent of the total and the highest at thirty. These are seeded behind nine numbers. Call off a number and get a clue -- but whatever amount is behind that number is taken out of the jackpot. Solve the clues and get whatever's left: a wrong answer means no money for that round. Given the nature of the clues and the show's careful design, you're having a good night if your worthy gets about half the total. Still, a low-six payout is a nice gift for just about anyone, right?
But then you have Harrison.
There's a bit of Deal or no deal here: instead of opening the cases, you're picking numbers. Any number could torpedo the total. And the camera is always on Harrison's face. It tracked Howie, too. Let it be a low number, Howie's expression would say. We need to give away some cash once in a while or this will never work. Let it be low...
...but not for Harrison. Because he's always had that little smirk, hasn't he? Come on, break hir heart so I can watch, the smirk says. Watch him attend enough romance funerals and you'll catch it a few times. Part of him enjoys the trauma, lives to see another relationship fall apart. And that part is very present here. Oh, he's rooting for the low numbers, at least vocally. But I was watching his face last night, and I caught that smirk twice. Let it be the highest number, the smirk says. I need to see all of their dreams fall apart. Let's not even pretend I care about these people. I just have to get my moment, the one where the hope is gone...
It was most visible in the last round, the one where the player took the potential question total from a never-was $250,000 to $27,500. Harrison was becoming visibly happier with every dollar lost. A disabled soldier was at the other end of all this pain? So what? Bring him on a Bachelor season and we'll see how much pain we can really inflict!
The people being played for will just about always arguably deserve the money. They also deserve a different host. And with the current format, they're probably not getting either.