Tuesday, June 6, 2023

The New Password Makes Me Feel Old, Tired, And Cranky

More mugging than central Park in the 70’s.

It doesn’t come out much on the Internet, if at all, but I love a good game show. I even love a pretty good game show. I grew up during Peak Game Show in the late 70’s and early 80’s, and I’ve watched over the decades as game shows have come in and out of fashion, but very few new true greats emerged. 

The networks seem to have come to the same conclusion, because for the past few years, they’ve been going hard on updates and remakes, from Alec Baldwin hosting Match Game to RuPaul piggybacking off of the belated Wordle craze to remake Lingo. All of these remakes have one trait in common, but none of them have this trait to the degree the new NBC reboot of Password does.

That trait is a level of artificial excitement and enthusiasm that’s constantly distracting and infuriating. It’s as if an entire generation of producers grew up on highlight clip shows of the “greatest moments” of game show history, and then, as their goal, tried to make every single goddamned second of these shows something from one of those highlight reels. It’s exhausting.

Password is especially rough going because JimmyFallon is on every episode. He’s not the host, mind you. Keke Palmer is the host, and she does as well as she can under the circumstances. No, Fallon is always one of the two celebrity contestants, and his particular brand of artificial fun is infectious. Ebola-level infectious.

Everyone is moving constantly, like they’re wearing bomb collars set to go off if they stay still for more than three seconds. When the theme song plays into and out of commercials, all five of them dance to it. Every time. Every correct answer is treated like an achievement on par with an Olympic medal performance. And most of the time there’s a little excited conversation about what just happened and how it happened.

Even the contestants act like this is their audition for an unspecified reality show, or like the producers have their family at gunpoint just off-stage. 

And it’s a shame, because structurally, from a game standpoint, it’s really well designed. It’s based off a faster-scoring version of the very original Password, The tie-breaker uses the word puzzles from Super Pass/word Password Plus, and the bonus round is a tweaked version of those shows’ Alphabetics .

There’s a “second chance” round when they fuck up the bonus round that’s wildly unnecessary and is just there to throw a bunch of unearned tension/suspense moments into what is more often than not an incredibly easy guess, but other than that, it’d be very watchable if they could just slow the fuck down and shut the fuck up for five goddamned seconds.

But that’s not what they think we want, so I’m gonna be a cantankerous old man and go back to Buzzr.

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