You may not think so, but you bullshit every single day, even if it’s just to yourself. So imagine if there was a game show where you could win a million dollars doing something you do every day?
Opening Shot: Over scenes of first season contestants, host Howie Mandel says, “Imagine if you will, you’re on a trivia game show… and you don’t know any of the answers.”
The Gist: Bullsh*t The Gameshow is all about people bullshitting and how accurate other people are at detecting the bullshit. Contestants in the “hot seat” (which Mandel points out doesn’t even have a chair) answer ten trivia questions; the amount they can win with each question increases, and if they get all ten they win $1 million.
But if they don’t know the answer to the question, they can pick a different one and try to convince the other three contestants that their answer is the right one. The other three contestants pick whether the hot seat player is bullshitting or not. If the hot seat contestant gets the answer right, they go on to the next question no matter what the other three contestants say. But if they’re bullshitting, at least one of the other three contestants has to believe them for the contestant to move on. Before each round, Mandel asks them whether the hot seat player wants to move on and risk their winnings or go home with the money won to that point.
There are also the matter of “locks”, where the contestant can lock in a prize level; even if they get knocked out, they will go home with the money they lock in. The second and final lock has to be used at minimum three levels above the first locked that was used.
Here’s where the three bullshit detector contestants come in: When a hot seat player gets knocked out, goes home or wins it all, the most accurate of the BS detector contestants is the next person to stand in the hot seat position.
What Shows Will It Remind You Of? Bullsh*t The Gameshow has the feeling of shows like The Weakest Link or even Deal Or No Deal — Mandel even starts doing DOND shtick as a joke at one point in the episode — but the comedic format is more akin to game shows like Baggage. The BS-detecting part is reminiscent of ABC’s recently-cancelled The Hustler.
Our Take: Bullsh*t The Gameshow is a bit strange because its concept is simple and complicated at the same time. How is that possible? Well, on the surface, it’s about people lying and other people trying to detect the lie. But when you start getting into the money ladder and the shenanigans with locks and what determines who stays and goes, and who ends up in the hot seat, the show gets bogged down with all of those details.
Which is why it’s fortunate that the show’s producers and contestant coordinators have made a conscious effort to find contestants that are beyond being merely enthusiastic. They are damn close to being performers; they’re bantering with Mandel, giving performative monologues when they talk about their decision on whether they voted for BS or not.
Of course, you need some degree of performance skills in order to be a believable bullshitter, but it feels like the format is such a slog that, if it weren’t for both the contestants’ personalities and Mandel’s constant goofing around, the show would fall flat on its face. We did appreciate that the less dramatic questions — like one where everyone thinks the hot seat player was right — were skipped through. But the pacing is still a little too slow.
The money ladder is also a bit flawed, mainly because the contestant has the ability to lock in an as soon as they get past the first, $1000 rung. Listen, $1000 is better than nothing, but it takes a little of the element of risk out, especially when the contestant uses their final lock 3 levels up, at $50k. It feels like most contestants will not take the risk and do the same two locks over and over, which is likely not what the producers intended. We also wonder how many people would really roll the dice on the $1 million level when they’re at $750k.
Sex and Skin: None. It’s not exactly family material, though, given the fact that the word “bullshit” is uttered about 100 times per episode.
Parting Shot: We are given a cliffhanger on a contestant’s answer, to see whether she’s BSed the other contestants or she’s telling the truth.
Sleeper Star: None.
Most Pilot-y Line: When a contestant jokes about $1000 paying for her flight, she turns to Mandel and asks if they paid for her flight to L.A. “Yes, we’re not on Hulu, we’re on Netflix,” Mandel replies. How did Hulu hurt you, Howie?
Our Call: STREAM IT. Despite the flaws in game play, Bullsh*t The Gameshow is mostly entertaining, with contestants that are extremely comfortable in front of a camera.
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, RollingStone.com, VanityFair.com, Fast Company and elsewhere.