29 September 2007
Australia's 'Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader' reviewed
Australian television has recently hit a new low with the first airing of the Oz version of Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader. That the show lacks any form of originality can be seen merely from the title—in Australia, the terms ‘Grade 5’ or ‘Year 5’ are used, rather than the American ‘5th Grader’. Channel 10 is obviously low on talent, so they have stuck Rove McManus into the hosts chair, a man hailed by more eloquent critics than I as “the least funny comedian in Australia’. Indeed, Rove is true to form—he talks a lot and only manages to raise a smile on his own face.
As for the show itself, it’s inane, clichéd nonsense of the highest order. The premise of the title is stupid, as obviously the comparison alluded to is not one of intelligence but knowledge. Even then, the premise turns out to be false, because there is no competition between the Year 5 students and the adult competitors. Rather, the kids are there to assist the adults in winning money—they’re all on the same team.
The questions are ridiculously drawn out, in the style of Who Wants to be a Millionaire, and Rove insists upon borrowing from that show’s host, Eddie McGuire, by constantly describing the simple act of answering a simple question as “locking in your answer”. A piece of advice, Rove—if you are the least funny host on Oz TV, Eddie is no funnier, and a whole lot less likable, so perhaps he’s not the best person to be emulating.
The first episode only managed to maintain a semblance of entertainment by virtue of its supporting cast. The kids were generally bright, chirpy, enthusiastic and likable, and the first contestant, Elka was a good looking blonde with a range of quirky facial expressions that were passingly entertaining. And although she was forced to look at the camera at the end of her stint and admit “I’m not smarter than a fifth grader”, she didn’t look very depressed by this admission because she’d just won $100,000 for a few minutes easy work. Assuming that the kids didn’t walk away with the same kitty, then who was the smarter?
Australian Quiz shows are generally pretty pathetic affairs, in which half-literate hosts grin their way through stupid questions fired at largely dumb contestants for huge amounts of money. Even long-running classics like Temptation have got dumber over the years. The ABC’s Spicks an Specks is a lone oasis in the wilderness, but where are the truly cerebral programs like the BBC’s exceptional QI, or the old ABC classic Mastermind, which actually celebrated the intelligence and knowledge of intelligent, knowledgeable people?
Today’s quiz shows on Australian commercial TV are clearly aimed at making couch potatoes at home feel smarter. This one will do that, and may even boost the ego of the family dog, cat or goldfish.