REVIEW: After a first attempt only lasted 50 episodes, beloved British quiz show The Chase may finally have found a local format that appeals to American audiences.
Cleverly, rather than plucking its chasers from “pub quiz” obscurity, the creators of The Chase USA (which makes its debut here on Sunday, March 27 at 7.30pm on Discovery’s new channel Eden) have gone with a trio of semi-household names (“titans of trivia” as the show proudly proclaims in its opening gambit), who all achieved major success on that superior show Jeopardy!
Fresh from competing against each other in that programme’s much-anticipated The Greatest of All Time tournament in 2020, Ken “The Professor” Jennings, James “The High Roller” Holzhauer and Brad “The Buzzsaw” Rutter all represent fearsome opponents for any prospective contestant, even if they lack the personalities of the UK sextet (well, aside from the maudlin “Menace”).
Host Sara Haines is no Bradley Walsh either. Double-entendres and giggling fits are likely to be few and far between on this far more sober series, that tries to generate extra humour by allowing the sidelined Chasers to snipe at those in the hot seat from the safety of backstage (something Holzhauer really seems to relish when Jennings is on show).
The questions appear to be a lot harder on The Chase USA.
* The Chase’s Governess is unhappy arrival of new Chaser means she’s paid less
* Beat the Chasers: Fresh format brings new thrills to The Chase
* Shaun Wallace keen on filming The Chase in New Zealand
* The Chaser has revealed there’s a secret handshake they do before a final Chase
* The Chase is addictive and it’s OK to have the same TV tastes as your mother
* The Chase would not survive without Bradley Walsh
Other changes from the Kiwi tea-time favourite include a reduction in the number of team members from four to three (which means ad breaks often come in the middle of a head-to-head) and waaay more cash being splashed around. Instead of £1000, each answer in the cash builder is worth US$25,000. Chaser offers went as high as US$275,000 on the opening episode.
Unfortunately, mo’ money seemingly came hand-in-hand with harder questions. They included What appears on the Cook Islands $3 bill? An erupting volcano? A murder with a spear? Or a naked woman riding a shark? (and yes, one of those is correct)
Who did Mark Zuckerberg hire to voice his home security system Jarvis? Where was the first-ever video uploaded to YouTube shot? Which celebrity donated a whole lot of Alamo-related artefacts they had collected to a museum dedicated to the battle? And what kind of car did Oprah give away to each audience member on a famous episode of her talkshow?
There were easier ones, which made Holzhauser even more delighted when Jennings stumbled on the name of BTS’ first English language song. For the most part though, Jennings showed why he is still America’s highest-earning game show contestant and why taking home any money when he’s chasing will be a difficult prospect.
I did like the fact the Final Chase involved a count “down” when the Chaser was in action and, while the questions seem a little more involved, you still get the same bang for your buck in terms of posers per hour.
I can see though why some tweaks were made after this first season. Mark “The Beast” Labbett was brought onboard and the money per question reduced to a more sustainable US$10,000. A third season, scheduled to air in the US from early May, will feature a more diverse line-up of Chasers, including former Jeopardy! faves Buzzy Cohen and Victoria Groce and Britain’s University Challenge’s infamous American interloper Brandon Blackwell.
While definitely slicker and more focused than Walsh and company, The Chase USA also loses a little of that series’ endearingly scruffy magic. That’s probably why it’s a weekly destination, rather than a daily ritual.
The Chase USA debuts on Discovery’s Eden channel on Sunday, March 27 at 7.30pm.
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