Monday, May 15, 2017

Slumdog Millionaire

Slumdog Millionaire
HBO viewing

I loved game shows as a kid. Before daytime television was littered with flimsy talk shows, game shows dominated the airwaves. If I was home from school, I would watch them all: The Price is Right, The Joker's Wild, Tic Tac Dough, Let's Make a Deal, Press Your Luck, Card Sharks, The $25,000 Pyramid, plus nighttime shows like Match Game and Hollywood Squares. I remember Wheel of Fortune when Chuck Woolery was the host! Being a kid, I could only dream of being on one of them one day, but I was content to play along at home.

When I was in high school, there was a game show called Win Lose or Draw, a kind of Pictionary with celebrities. One week, they filmed it from Wollman Rink in Central Park. My friends and I were part of the audience that got to sit on the stage. One of the celebrity guests was Kim Fields from The Facts of Life. I got to help her up onto the stage. 

Jeopardy! is the kind of game show you can't help getting sucked into if you see it's on. Everybody thinks they're smart enough to win. From what I've heard about the screening process for contestants, though, it's pretty tough, as you would expect. I mean, it's not like you can fake being smart - although I've heard some people make a good living that way!

Jen loves trivia games. I told you about the time we went to a movie trivia night in Brooklyn. Well, she goes to trivia nights like that all the time. At the game parties she and her husband host, sometimes we'll play the home version of Jeopardy!, which isn't easy when you've got a crowd. There are "clickers," small noisemakers meant to substitute for the buzzer on the show, but someone has to judge who clicked first, and there are always disputes. Friendly ones, but disputes nonetheless.

When Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? debuted, I, like many people, was initially flabbergasted that a game show offered so much money - a million dollars - as the grand prize. I remember when $100,000 was a big deal for a game show, or even a "measly" $10,000.

Is it me, though, or were the questions on Millionaire not that difficult on average? At least compared to Jeopardy? The contestants on that show and the game shows of the past, like 21 (as depicted in Quiz Show) looked like exceptional individuals. The ones on Millionaire, by contrast, tend to come across as more down-to-earth. I suspect that's deliberate, given how much they bend over backwards to try and make it easier for the contestants with those "lifeline" options. With Jeopardy!, you're on your own.

What happens, however, when a contestant is so ordinary his success seems impossible? That is the subject of Slumdog Millionaire, Danny Boyle's Best Picture winner from almost a decade ago. The movie would have you believe Dev Patel's character was fated to succeed on the show. It's a nice fantasy, particularly since he only did it to find Frieda Pinto, which of course, he does in the end - and everyone dances a Bollywood-style dance and it's all good. Fine. I'm willing to give in to the fantasy when it's in service to a movie like this.

I'm not sure if Boyle has a signature style. He has done a little bit of everything: suspense, comedy, sci-fi, horror, drama. None of them look similar, either. I didn't watch the 2012 Summer Olympics, so I don't know how he handled the opening ceremonies. I'm sure he did a great job. Boyle doesn't work with many superstars (DiCaprio, a few years removed from Titanic - that's about it), nor does he have a go-to repertory of actors or any kind of recurring theme in his movies. He pretty much follows his muse, wherever it leads him.

I was very surprised he made a sequel to Trainspotting earlier this year, with the entire original cast, no less. The mediocre reviews kept me away, although John and Sue liked it. They're huge fans of the first movie. John in particular will see anything with Ewan McGregor. I might look at it if it comes to cable, but it's been so long since I've seen the first Trainspotting, I probably wouldn't remember who the characters are or what they're doing.


  1. New Year's Eve 1988. Garry and I will be married in 6 months. He said he almost changed his mind. We celebrated the new year with friends playing trivial pursuit. Everyone else in the room was either a teacher or a doctor. We were kicking butt big time and Garry said I got rather obnoxious about it. Mild-mannered little old me?! A trivia game brings out my dark side.

    Boyle did an excellent job on the 2012 opening ceremonies. It was full of history and heart.

  2. See, if it were me, I'd be stumped big time. General trivia is not my bag.