By Ethaniel Reyes
Following the death of Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek, trivia fans are still able to see three of Trebek’s most memorable contestants as trivia masters on ABC’s newest primetime quiz show called “The Chase”, hosted by journalist and talk show host Sara Haines.
“The Chase” is a brand new game show that combines rapid-fire trivia, high-stakes, and three of the most famous faces of game show history altogether. The premise of the show involves pitting three contestants against the Chaser — one of Jeopardy’s Greatest of All Time — Ken Jennings, Brad Rutter, and James Holzhauer.
Contestants are given the opportunity to face off against the Chaser individually, in an attempt to bring cash to their jackpot. If they succeed, they qualify for the Final Chase — a round of rapid-fire trivia where the contestants work together to outrun the Chaser to win the money.
One-by-one, contestants get the chance to go head-to-head against the Chaser. But before they do that, they must first build up cash to play for. A contestant is given a minute-long round of rapid-fire trivia to build up cash, with every correct answer worth $25,000. At the end of the minute, they bring the cash they earned to the table where the contestant faces off against the Chaser.
The Head-to-Head round is played on an elevated, slanted table where the contestant plays on the lower end while the Chaser plays on the higher end. They are essentially playing a trivia cat-and-mouse game. The contestant and the Chaser secretly answer the same multiple-choice questions to move along the board — every time the contestant is right, they move one step towards the bank and secure the money. Every time the Chaser is right, the Chaser moves one step towards the contestant.
The contestant starts five steps from the bank and three steps ahead of the Chaser. However, the Chaser gives offers to start either one step closer or further to the bank — smaller offers are given for a step closer, but substantially larger offers are given for contestants to take the gamble at a step further. If the Chaser catches up and reaches the contestant before they bank the money, they are eliminated.
If anyone makes it to the end, they earn the right to play the Final Chase, a chance for the contestants to outrun the Chaser one more time. It is played in two parts — the contestants’ and the Chaser’s. In the first part, the remaining contestants get two minutes to answer as many questions as possible, with every right answer earning them a step ahead of the Chaser — they are also given an advantage of the same number of steps as there are remaining contestants.
In the second part, the Chaser also gets two minutes to answer a different set of questions, with every right answer earning him one step forward. However, should the Chaser get a question wrong, it is passed to the contestants who are given the opportunity to push back the Chaser one step further by answering correctly.
If the Chaser manages to catch the contestants, they win absolutely nothing — but if the contestants last and outrun the Chaser in those two minutes, they win the game and the money.
The Host: Sarah Haines is a fair choice for the host, despite some flaws
On average, Haines can only give around 8 questions in the minute-long round, while in other countries they have been able to give around 12 or 13. In the final round she can give around 20 in two minutes — while in other countries, they can give up to around 30.
This is a really low point for the show because it does not allow for more trivia questions to be given, and it doesn’t feel as fast-paced and high-tension as it should be. Haines does well in speaking clearly and enunciating the questions as clearly as possible at the expense of the high pace and tension being lost when the game comes down to the wire.
To fix this, Haines would obviously need to speed up the pace at which she reads the questions and figures out how to balance enunciating and getting straight to the point with the questions, not wasting any time trying to dish questions one-by-one.
On top of that, Haines can sound a little repetitive when it comes to explaining the rules. After every single contestant comes up to play head-to-head against the Chaser, a little bit of the rules are mentioned again — which seems a little redundant. This is a minor issue, but it can easily be fixed.
Haines is good at staying active in directing the audience in the right direction and making sure they stay tuned to the game. However, sometimes her humor can be dry in the moments of camaraderie between the Chaser, herself, and the contestants.
She would often make jokes that aren’t really necessary to make and it seems like they are just there, however, this doesn’t go for all the side jokes she makes. For example, she made pretty good humor out of Kim Kardashian potentially being the answer to the question, “Who among these celebrities is a sexagenarian?”. This obviously shows that a little bit of adult humor can be made necessary in a primetime trivia show like “The Chase” — however, even though jokes like these aren’t too harmless, they can still bring up the question as to whether or not the show can be seen as family-friendly.
Overall she does a good job — she just mainly needs work in improving her talking speed and potentially providing more family-friendly commentary and camaraderie between the active members of the game.
The Effects: The studio is incredibly attractive, soundtrack — not so much
The semicircular studio is full of LED lights and screens, with pillars of lighting periodically lining the perimeter. There are many stage lights dancing around the studio to build tension, and the studio changes themes to make the different rounds have more meaning.
For example, in the Cashbuilder rounds, you can see the pillars of light all turn dark-blue — however, when the clock is ticking, you can see the pillars slowly fade to red with the lights behind them doing the same
In the Final Chase, the studio turns all-blue when the contestants have their two minutes, and it adds to the tension of the contestants’ attempts to answer as many questions as they can. The LED screen behind them shows a graphic of steps that increases for every single correct answer — however, when the Chaser has his turn, those steps are taken down in the other direction with the number of them decreasing.
The one downside is the soundtrack, which isn’t even consistent. There are some parts that come from the original soundtrack and other parts that are taken from the British version. My suggestion is to use all the themes of the British version, just coming from a game show fan’s perspective.
The Payouts: The Cashbuilder should give less money per correct answer
It’s no surprise that ABC would invest hundreds of thousands into prize money, given the way primetime game shows are produced but the amount of money offered seems too high for how much the questions are worth.
The Cashbuilder round offers $25,000 per correct answer — this is pretty high considering that Haines can give out around 8 questions in the minute-long round — a staggering $200,000 on offer in the round. It almost makes it seem that the money is valued less than what it’s really worth, given the fact that some Cashbuilder questions are relatively easy to answer. This also explains the lack of consistency in Haines’ speaking as mentioned above.
To alleviate this, the Cashbuilder should offer less per correct answer — $10,000 would be a good amount. That would mean that instead of, for example, $150,000 for six correct answers, the contestant would get $60,000.
This is also related to the next problem that I have with the game — the offers. In the head-to-head round the lower offers seem far more enticing than the higher offers. By lowering the Cashbuilder wins, ABC can allow themselves not to change the higher offers — making them more enticing.
For example, let’s say there’s a contestant who earned $100,000 in the Cashbuilder — they would usually get offered $50,000 for a step closer or $200,000 for a step further. If that was reduced, where the contestant earned $40,000 instead, a step closer could mean $20,000 while a step further could still remain the same — $200,000 — making the higher offer seem more interesting. This will add more tension to the game when players take offers that seem way higher in comparison to what they earned.
Bottom line: Pretty solid for an hour-long, primetime show
The show makes for an engaging quiz competition, and it is produced in such a way that emphasizes high-stakes. It’s a solid show, but it may need some improvements in order to give more value to the trivia and money at stake.
The show has the potential to become successful in its primetime slot. In fact, it has been performing well despite the initial drop in viewership from the first to the third episode — around 2 million viewers. With 4.8 million viewers tuned in to its latest episode, I can definitely see this getting renewed for a second season.
I am happy “The Chase” has come to primetime TV, and I look forward to seeing the direction that “The Chase” will go with the production of its future episodes. Like with “Weakest Link”, there is no doubt that the show will be more enjoyable for the millions of viewers tuned in if changes in the format are taken into consideration.
FEATURED IMAGE: “The Chase” premiered on January 7, 2021 and is airing every Thursday on ABC at 9/10c. (PHOTO CREDIT: ABC)