Ever play the card game Shit Happens? You try to rate different embarrassing situations on a “misery index” from 1 to 100. When you were playing, did you think “This would be a good game show?” No? Well, Andy Breckman and the Newmark brothers did; they developed the game into TBS’s new game show The Misery Index. Read on for more…
THE MISERY INDEX: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?
Opening Shot: Host Jmeela Jamil comes out, introduces the contestants and The Tenderloins: Joe Gatto, James “Murr” Murray, Brian “Q” Quinn and Sal Vulcano.
The Gist: The idea of The Misery Index is that, with the help of two of The Tenderloins (the guys from Impractical Jokers, if you didn’t know), the contestants try to guess the “misery index” of someone depicted in an online story or video. The misery index is a 1-100 scale, a panel of mental health professionals give each event a number based on three “pillars of misery”: Physical pain, emotional trauma, and long-term psychological impact.
The contestants are introduced along with their own embarrassing moment: Andrew lost his wedding ring on his wedding day, and Elektra’s best friend hooked up with someone Elektra liked while they were on a trip to Ireland. When Murray asks Elektra about calling it a “hocation,” Jamil chimes in by saying, “Shouldn’t be called a ho-liday?”
In the first round, the “Traumatron” (i.e. the big screen on the set) displays the 1-100 range, and two markers are placed — in this case finding maggots in your fried rice and accidentally sending a nude selfie to HR — and the contestants guess if the story they’re looking at falls below the markers, between the markers, or above the markers. In the second round, contestants decide which of two stories are more miserable, like a woman who gets fired after donating a kidney to her boss vs. a doctor who borrowed money from a patient and then falsely gives the patient a dementia diagnosis. In the third round, the contestants are shown a video of the Tenderloins pulling one of their pranks, and whoever comes closest to the misery number attached to it gets the money.
The winner goes on to the bonus round, where in each of three rounds, the contestant is given a story and they have to figure out where the misery number falls in a scale. As the money up for grabs goes up, the scale gets smaller. There’s potential for the contestant to get $30,000 on top of whatever they won in the main game.
Our Take: The Misery Index is pretty obviously more about the comedy than the game play, and that’s just fine. TV history is rife with game shows that leaned on the guffaws that could be generated more than the enjoyment of playing along.
If you have even a minor play-along element, like on Match Game, then all the better. But if the comedy is strong — like on the current version of Let’s Make A Deal — then giving viewers a game where they can play along isn’t necessary. Misery Index‘s game has a teeny-tiny play-along element, where you can guess a story’s “misery index” number along with the contestant. But we didn’t find ourselves guessing at all while we watched the first episode. What we did find ourselves doing is laughing at the lines the Tenderloins and Jamil threw out as the contestants tried to guess.
The show, developed by Andy Breckman (Monk), Ben Newmark and Dan Newmark (GiGi Does It), is based on the card game Shit Happens, which introduced us to the idea of a “misery index.” The game takes advantage of the funny icons that the cards in the game use, but then graft them onto real-life stories culled from around the interwebs, which adds a funny element — like when we see the story of a kid who was banished to the woods for eating a Pop Tart without permission. But the key to the show is the dry but goofy tone of The Good Place‘s Jamil, and the boisterous New Yawk tone of the Tenderloins. When there’s a story about a nine-year-old who is still breastfed, for instance, Vulcano says, “That woman looks like she’s in her 50s. That milk must have turned by now.”
Sex and Skin: We liked the icon of a kid who was tall enough to breast feed while standing. Other than that, it’s not that kind of show.
Parting Shot: The Tenderloins tell someone the winning contestant knows to “Suck it!”
Sleeper Star: We’re fans of Jamil, but we’re still astonished that she did just fine bantering with the Tenderloins, whose semi-bro-ish style of humor should actually clash with Jamil’s “I kinda care that I’m here” persona on the show.
Most Pilot-y Line: The cross-promotion with Impractical Jokers seems inevitable, but using a prank as a basis for a round is maybe a bit much. Though the idea of that is that the other three members purposely embarrass the fourth, so maybe it does fit.
Our Call: STREAM IT. If The Misery Index can deliver funny lines like that on a consistent basis, then it should have a solid run on TBS.
Joel Keller (@joelkeller) writes about food, entertainment, parenting and tech, but he doesn’t kid himself: he’s a TV junkie. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Salon, VanityFair.com, Playboy.com, FastCompany.com, RollingStone.com, Billboard and elsewhere.
The post Stream It Or Skip It: ‘The Misery Index’ On TBS, A Game Show Where People Win By Rating Others’ Misery appeared first on Decider.