The cruel reality of celebrity game shows
Imagine you were walking down the road one day and someone stopped you.
"Good evening sir/ma'am," they say. "Do you have a charity that is particularly close to your heart?"
"Why yes I do," you respond.
"Great! Then how would you like to play a game? I have right here €20,000 that I would like to give to your charity, how does that sound?"
"That sounds pretty great," you say, though a little skepticism has crept into your voice. "What's the catch?"
"It's not a catch exactly, it's more of a challenge. I want you to hang from that tree branch over there for a minute and a half. Do that and the money goes straight to your charity."
"I can hardly not give that a go now can I?" you say to the man. The challenge seems reasonable. You reckon you've got this one in the bag.
"Oh and one more thing," he says, "Before we continue I need you to give that charity a call a tell them that you’ve chosen them."
You do as he says.
"... and if I succeed I'll be donating the money to you guys," you tell them.
They are thrilled and wish you the best of luck.
Five minutes have passed since you met this strange man with money to burn and now you find yourself hanging from a tree. You're about forty seconds in and starting to struggle. In your mind you try to focus on your charity and all of the good that €20k would do for them.
Unfortunately it's not enough. Your forearms have started to burn, as have your shoulders. You feel yourself beginning to slip as your grip weakens. One minute and seventeen seconds is the time on the man's stopwatch as your feet hit the ground.
"Sorry friend, you didn't quite make it, great try though," he says as he turns to walk away, leaving you with nothing but the sound of the jaunty tune he's whistling ringing in your ears.
Left alone with your mind you begin to process what just happened and before long realize that you are feeling pretty bad. Before you had met the man you'd been having a pretty good day but now you feel shit about yourself.
You’d had the chance to give a huge sum of money to a charity. You think about all of the amazing things they could have done with that money, if you hadn’t failed to deliver that is. What's worse is that you now have to call them to tell them that you failed.
Or you could just leave it.
I guess they would take the hint...
Either way your day has been ruined, and same goes for a couple of people at that charity I reckon.
What does it all mean?
From the title of this post and the preceding story I reckon you probably know where I’m going with this, but I’ll go there anyway.
I was watching a celebrity edition of a game show recently. You know the ones, where instead of getting 'normal' people on they get a group of celebrities to compete. They do so for charity of course, because presumably these celebrities don't need the money.
As I watched I couldn't help but feel like the whole thing was a bit cruel.
The game show in question was 'The Chase'. In it four contestants take on 'The Chaser'. Basically it's a head to head trivia game in which an every day normal person needs to out run a professional quiz person on a board of questions.
They get a head start against the chaser of course, the size of which influences the amount of money up for grabs. If the chaser catches you then you go home with nothing.
Anyone not caught by the chaser returns to the team and the money they earned is added to a pot. This pot is then up for grabs by any remaining members of the team, but first they must defeat the chaser again, this time as a collective.
There's a bit more to it, but that's the general gist.
In the celebrity version the show our four 'normal' people are replaced by celebrities, the questions are a bit easier and of course the money goes to the charities of their choosing.
So where's the cruelty? Let's take a look at an example of how an episode of the celebrity chase could unfold.
We have four celebrities that each win £5,000 when they face off against the chaser in the ‘final chase’. The prize fund is then £20,000, with £5k going to each celebrity’s chosen charity.
They do not win that £20k until they defeat the chaser in the final chase. If they fail to do so then the money is taken away. Usually the show will give a token donation of £1,000 to each contestant since "it's for charity", £4k less than if they had succeeded in the final chase.
Now think back to the little story I told earlier. It did have a point...
It seems like what these game shows are doing is dangling a load of money in front of a charity and then potentially taking it away. We know they have the money to give because if the celebrities win the game then the donation happens. If they don't then it doesn't (or rather a lesser donation happens).
Either way, these guys with money are dangling it in front of a charity and taking it away if some other person doesn't perform some feat.
I know the charity always gets something and it raises awareness etc... But still... The money is there, ready to go. I reckon if I was one of those celebrities I reckon I’d feel pretty bad about failing to deliver a significant donation.