Game Shows Inspired By The Writings Of Malcolm Gladwell


Illustration: My Wonder Eyes

The 10,000-Hour Pyramid

The theory is simple yet difficult: to master anything, from computer science to clog dancing, one must put in 10,000 hours of deliberate practice. However, no amount of training will prepare contestants for what they will face underneath the towering, golden monument that is the 10,000-Hour Pyramid. For this is a game not of skill, but of something far more problematic…human communication. And here we play a quick fill on a Casio MT-540 keyboard set to “Synth Celesta,” which Gary, our composer, has made sound like a compromised starship ripping into the fabric of space-time, but with Gershwinian bravura (at least that was his brief and, as you can tell, we think he nailed it). Ready to play?

Two teams compete, each made up of a celebrity “outlier” who has trained for those myriad hours, and a civilian who hasn’t. They sit across from one another. The outlier faces away from the pyramid, which has six different words or phrases that stem from whatever main category he or she holds mastery over. The outlier must then guess the answers on the pyramid based on clues generated by the civilian. For example, if the civilian gives the hint, “It looks like you’re getting gum off your shoe,” this would lead the clog dancing outlier to correctly guess “The Double Toe Step.” But clues as specific as that are rare. More likely, the civilian will stumble and say, “Um, two piggys. The one who went to market and the one who stayed home. Uh, walking…together?” We watch as the outlier squirms in his or her chair, eyeing the civilian with scorn. The teams then switch. Now the outlier must explain the terms he or she knows so well to someone who, due to the flashing lights and Gary’s music, essentially has the mind of a fourth-grader on goofballs. Using any part of the answer displayed on the pyramid means disqualification. Bill Gates was a recent guest, as was Jesco White, aka the “Dancing Outlaw,” who ended the show with a clog dance inspired by his native Appalachia.

Ira Glass, in his first turn as game show host, has been selected for his broad curiosity and self-effacing charm. In focus groups, he tested well with intellectuals, Boomers, hipsters, Jews, Midwesterners and, surprisingly, tween girls. America, you will not believe how cute he looks hosting this show.

Blink Fast!

A contest of split decisions, Blink Fast! forces three contestants and Wink, a supercomputer capable of processing eight zettaflops per second, to make game-changing judgments within the span of two seconds.
During an art forgery challenge, different sets of nearly identical paintings and sculptures are revealed behind windows that turn from clear to opaque so quickly that the visual information passes through the lens of the eye but does not strike the optical nerve, a phenomenon that scientists are now calling a vif. Based on this flashing image, contestants must select the real work from the imitation. The more valuable the artwork, the more prize money is at stake.

In the greyhound challenge, as dogs clamor in the starting gate of a racetrack that wraps around the studio, contestants try to pick the winner based on seeing a vif of each animal’s face, looking for “microexpressions” that signal the hound is either tired or energized. Contestants must also select one of three pieces of contextual information: a feeding chart, a relative aggression index, and when each dog last had sex. Will the extra information help or serve to confuse? In a world predicated on hunches, inklings and notions, one can never be too sure.

In the decor challenge, three actors and one convicted murderer decorate a room using the same pieces of furniture and knickknacks. After looking at each room for two seconds, the contestants must identify the killer based on the interior designs.

Hanging in the balance is Wink’s creator and sponsor, Gateway Incorporated, the once iconic computer company known in the 90s for shipping its products in cow-spotted boxes. Will this show provide the marketing surge Gateway needs so that Acer, its subsidiary, doesn’t discontinue the brand? Anything can happen in a blink!

Illusionist Criss Angel, an expert splitter of seconds if there ever was one, hosts the show. Wardrobe considerations provided by Ed Hardy and Street Legal Leather.

Prodigies Vs. Masters

In this show, very young and very old geniuses in various artistic fields face off against each other, pitting raw talent against refined skill. The categories of competition are based on areas known to engender virtuosity at both ends of the human lifespan. Music, chess, acting, rote memorization, painting, advanced mathematics and opera are performed one-on-one, wunderkind against überelder, in a hexagonal, interestingly lit area known as “The Atelier.” They compete individually but gain points as a team, until one age group is declared victorious. Different prizes are awarded based on who wins: the youngsters receive enough grant money that they never have to enter the workforce; the elders win a life-extending diet and the cigars that George Burns smoked.

During a lightning round, one skill is randomly selected, and the prodigy or master of that category must quickly tutor the rest of his or her team in it, putting both leadership skills and the plasticity of genius to the test. Imagine a bunch of eight-year-olds and eighty-year-olds practicing Dvo?ák’s Sonatina in G major, yelling at the other geniuses to “make the minor chords sound more like a mirage” and you’ll begin to understand the utter watchability of Prodigies Vs. Masters.

Architect and sculptor Maya Lin, both a prodigy and a burgeoning master, serves as the host. And for those not recording the show on DVR, the eternal struggle of young against old just moved to Thursday nights at 9/8c.

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image – My Wonder Eyes