ABC's Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? (imported from Britain) has become a golden-egg-laying-goose for the network, consistently pulling top Nielsen ratings and beating the other networks. It even topped the 57th Annual Golden Globes during the hour that it played opposite the awards show on January 23.
Diving to cash in on the public's love for money give-away shows, Fox has begun to air Greed. (How's that for a subtle name?) NBC has resurrected Twenty-One, the infamous game show that once fraudulently furnished Charles Van Doren with answers to quiz questions in advance out of-well, greed to build and keep the show's audience. CBS joined the dash for cash-lovers late with Winning Lines.
In true, "I'll see that and raise you one" mentality, Fox promises a new show this February, titled Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire? The list of possibilities for thinly disguised clones is nauseatingly endless.
The U.S.-Canadian and British markets aren't the only ones that have an appetite for big-money game shows. A similar show, Chance of a Lifetime, recently pulled a Norwegian audience of 1.25 million people-in a market of just 4 million!
"Why are these shows making a comeback?" is an easy question to answer from the networks' point of view. They are relatively cheap to make. The sets are inexpensive, and advertisers front the money that is given away to winners. Not that there are that many winners. ABC's version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? had a million-dollar winner recently-only the second person ever to win the big prize on any of the show's various versions.
Maybe the question "Why are these shows so popular with the viewing public?" is a little more difficult to answer. This Week, ABC's Sunday morning news show, discussed the phenomenal success of their money game, speculating on the reasons for its astounding popularity. The round table of newspersons all thought people simply wanted to see other people win. Only one, a conservative columnist, disagreed, saying he believed that most watched in the hope that they would see the contestant lose! He was roundly booed for his uncharitable attitude!
There is a more basic answer, one that would surely raise a chorus of boos from those who are mesmerized by this "cavalcade of cash cows" for network television. That is, they pander to a desire that lies within the makeup of everyone's primary nature, the desire to strike it rich. The audience is able to project itself into the winner's circle, to vicariously win the big money. It plays to the tinsel veneer of cheap values that overlay Western culture like a shabby forgery of the genuine article.
What harm does it do? Some might say that quiz shows are "educational" and therefore good for people to watch. Hmm…. I wonder if anyone thinks of reading a book anymore, or going for a walk to look at what God has made. Does anyone really think that it is "good" that millions upon millions of man-hours are being spent weekly in front of the television watching a few people trying to grab for the brass ring?
Is it truly good that people bathe their minds in-as one show is plainly titled-greed? Look again at the timeless wisdom of God on the subject: "For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But you, O man of God, flee these things" (1 Timothy 6:9-10). ( ABC's This Week; Variety; Associated Press; Northeastern News, Northeastern University; Drudge Report )