This week a new cable network is launching in the United States and it's starting off with a bang. Replacing Discovery Kids, a new venture between Discovery and Hasbro called The Hub officially launched on Sunday. With programming mainly targeted at children, it's an attempt by the two companies to freshen up a lower-rated network and get some momentum going with a mix of new, original and classic, beloved shows. Two new family game shows have been added to their lineup based on existing Hasbro properties: Pictureka! and Family Game Night. I had a chance to view an episode of each and, since it is well-documented here that I'm a lifelong fan of kids' game shows, I thought it would only be appropriate to give my reviews of the shows.
Pictureka! is based on the Hasbro board game which, after doing a bit of research and commercial-viewing, appears to be a hybrid of Where's Waldo? and the front game of the 80s Nickelodeon game show Finders Keepers. They appear to be very faithful in carrying this over to a television adaptation. The main purpose of the game is to, over a couple of rounds, play games based on finding hidden objects to score points. Teams consist of two kids and a parent playing to win the grand prize. Points are referred to as "fish points" (the strangest score-keeping device this side of Temptation Dollars) as the gimmick is used to feed the show's penguin mascot.
One round might involve the parent dressed up as one of the game's characters running around one of the "rooms" in the set looking for a given object or character, each one earning fish points. Another features the contestants looking for images on the sides of cubes, having to identify the target amount before your opponent and earn the top bonus. They also incorporate a round where the team, all tethered together, has to maneuver around the stage to find one of the characters strewn about that fits in a category, like someone with a mustache. The team with the most fish points after the main game gets to play the bonus round, which I think is the neatest part of the show.
On the monitor, the team is shown nine penguin mascots in a 3x3 grid for ten seconds, each dressed differently or looking differently somehow. Given ninety seconds, one by one each member has to run into the "room" which is chock full of similar-looking penguins. Using memory skills, the team mate must bring back one of the nine penguins and place it in its proper place on the grid. If at some point, they have a brain lapse, the team can pause the clock and see the proper order one more time. The grand prize, a trip, is hidden behind one of the nine squares. If the contestants have the correct penguin placed in the "secret square" after time elapses, they win.
There's nothing too terrible about Pictureka! The host, Cory Almeida, is certainly warm and competent enough for a kid's game but he could definitely look into using more variety in his comments; there's more than one way to say "that's correct" and it gets a bit annoying hearing that every single time a contestant does a good thing. Sometimes the games can drag on a little too long if the contestants are having a hard time and that can harm the flow. Hearing "fish points" over and over is a bit silly too, but hey, the penguin's gotta eat. You can catch Pictureka! every weekday at 4 PM ET on The Hub. The other game on The Hub's roster is one you should definitely go out of your way to check out.
If you like "classic" box games like I do, the Todd Newton-hosted Family Game Night is right up your alley. Two teams of four (mom, dad and siblings) compete in five mini-games based on Hasbro's Family Game Night line of board games. Even though they're all adapted for TV, they still somehow manage to have a level of faith to the original. The Connect Four variant features teams taking turns throwing colored basketballs into a giant grid, but the object is still to get four in a row horizontally, vertically or diagonally. The Scrabble game has families re-arranging five large, illuminated tiles to try to make the biggest words they can. And my favorite, the Guesstures game, still has charades... but one family member guesses while the other three are suspended above the stage. Instead of a card dropping if the guesser passes on a clue, the person drops!
You can tell by the massive set pieces and the overall feel of the program that this is no low-budget ordeal. It's very impressive, not to mention fun, to watch. The prizes up for grabs also let you know that there's a bit of an investment here. Not only does the family who wins each game get a family-oriented prize like a kayak or a camping package, but they also get to pick one of 21 Monopoly "Crazy Cash" ATM cards. On each card is a real dollar amount, ranging from a couple hundred to one card that has over $10,000. After the games are played, the families insert their cards and find out how much money they win. Both families get to keep their cash total at the end of the night, but the family in the lead also gets a vacation package on top of the cash and the prizes already won. In an era of no parting gifts and a "zero or everything" prize mentality, it's really nice to see a new game give out a lot prizes for keeps. Most families are going to be leaving with at least a pick-up truck's bed worth of goodies.
You can definitely tell that there was a lot of thought put into this show and it is executed well. With more minigames to come based on other games like Yahtzee, Sorry!, Bop-It, and Twister, the rotation of games will help the show stay away from being stale, sort of like The Price is Right's rotation of pricing games. There's not much padding at all and any drama is quite real. You wouldn't think that waiting to see how much money an animated ATM will spit out is dramatic, but hey. They did it. I give this show very high marks and recommend you go out of your way to see it. My 12 year old sister Cheyenne watched the show with me and she had a blast watching as well. Since she's in their target demographic, that's obviously a good sign. Stay home, get a season pass on your DVR, do what you need to do. But gather around with the ones you love and a bowl of popcorn. It's an entertaining hour. Family Game Night premieres new episodes every Friday at 7 PM ET.
Though I prefer one show over the other, I would like to thank The Hub for going out of their way to put two new quality kids' programs out for children. They both are a lot of fun and are certainly a better use of your time than watching a talking sponge. With BrainSurge still going on and a new Hole in the Wall debuting for Cartoon Network, who knows? Maybe we're witnessing the renaissance of the kids' game show... I can only hope, anyway.
Chad Mosher is a past game show contestant, and has experience in many aspects of the game show industry. He contributes a weekly column here at About.com Game Shows, answering your questions and tackling all facets of the game show genre. If you have questions for Chad, you can post them here in the comments, or contact him directly through the link in his bio.
Photo courtesy Discovery Network