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REVIEW: Winsanity

REVIEW: Winsanity
Cory Anotado

GSN’s high-energy hootenanny hides a clever quiz underneath the energy and LED bracelets.

This summer, a lot of game show fans are looking forward to revivals of their classic favorites. But GSN’s got an interesting trick up their sleeve to lure in those eyes who want even more game show fun this summer, in the form of their new studio show, Winsanity.

A telling sign of the intensity of this show is coming from my auto-correct, that keeps assuming I’m misspelling “insanity” but you listen here, computer, I am your master.

And this show has energy coming out of the wazoo. It starts with a crowd that’s rowdier than The Price is Right’s crowd, and for good measure: anyone in the studio audience has a chance to win prizes. One lucky audience member gets chosen from the crowd by fancy LED bracelets (known on the show as Win Watches), and that player controls the game.

Host Donald Faison models the Win Watch, an interactive LED bracelet that chooses contestants on the show.

Host Donald Faison models the Win Watch, an interactive LED contestant-selecting bracelet.

Each round plays kind of like a round of Sortieren from Schlag Den Raab: the player is given four items and must order them based on the magnitude of numbers. The units don’t matter: 100 pounds is smaller than 400 ounces. It’s only the digits. If the player successfully places the items they’re given, he or she and a selected number of people in the audience win a prize. One full game of Winsanity goes through 10 different numerical facts, and the player that correctly orders the 10 facts in order banks a bonus $10,000 and a brand new car (and a car for someone in the audience!). Prizes are doled out from a virtual carousel at the beginning of each round, and with each round, the prize on offer becomes available to members of the audience as well. (A home element is also in the works, so people at home can win as well.) There’s lots of winners, and the show gives away so many prizes, you don’t realize the prizes are kind of cheap per person (A $5,000 prize of gift cards was split between 50 different contestants, so each contestant would bank $100). But no one really complained about that during Monopoly Millionaire’s Club.

The game itself is actually fun. The facts the show gives are well-sourced and definitely run the gamut of knowledge that a quiz show should run, even if the trivia slacks more toward pop culture (and things the average person wouldn’t know, like how many nose jobs Americans get each year). Positioning each fact is precarious. Luckily, the Price-is-Right-style audience shouts out help, advice and encouragement (since hell, at any point, they’re also playing the game) so a studio-wide camaraderie is built on stage and felt through the television.

Any game show needs both a solid game and a solid show, and Winsanity carries both. The set feels cramped on a wide shot, but the large, disjointed LED monitors that hold the contestant’s answers in position are cool, and having the grand prize car on set is a great touch that more game shows should do more often today. Faison has lots of room to move around and interact with the contestants and the crowd, and the crowd is on its feet most of the time to reinforce the kinetic energy pulsing through the studio.

Win_Donald_0210RGSN’s choice for a host seems odd—most people remember Donald Faison as the lovable surgeon Chris Turk on NBC and ABC’s Scrubs—but his high energy (I mean, look at that vertical!) pairs very well with the show. And since no one has ever claimed that Donald Faison isn’t lovable, he really charms both the contestants and the viewer at home. He’s not a traditional host (and he’s technically not a comedian unless I haven’t found his stand-up reel anywhere) but with such a rowdy show, there needs to be someone leading the brigade to match the energy, and Turk (I will never not call him Turk) works the room with ease. Co-hosting and announcing the game is comedian Kira Soltanovich, who does a solid job of being a more grounded (but still snarky and funny) anchor to Faison’s endless energy.

The hour isn’t without its flaws. The LED bracelets, while cool, kind of don’t read well in the anarchy of the excited crowd, so it can be hard to tell who’s playing in the crowd. And for a half hour of play, you’d expect more than 10 questions. This being GSN, one could assume that the game doesn’t straddle between two episodes, so it remains to be seen what happens if a player eats it and a second game is played. But overall, Winsanity is a high-energy game show that has a lot of interesting little gimmicks, but a really solid quiz underneath it.

Winsanity premieres June 9 at 9/8c on GSN.

Review Overview

Game Show

Win-sane In The Membrane

A high-energy quizzer that's unique on paper and enjoyable on television.

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