Saturday, February 24, 2007

Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader? - Feb. 24, 2007

Premiering Tuesday; Fox, Global


Reality Check

Quiz shows tend to come and go on TV. But does the boog tube actually have room for something called Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?

By Eric Kohanik

When it comes to reality TV, most people would agree that Mark Burnett has been a master of that domain.

The British-born executive producer has given TV viewers such successful reality franchises as Eco-Challenge, Survivor, The Apprentice and Rock Star. Last summer, he turned his attention to the Internet and came up with a hit game show there, too, called Gold Rush.

Of course, Burnett has also given viewers a few bombs, including The Casino, The Restaurant and The Contender. To be fair, The Contender really only bombed on network television. American cable viewers have continued to see new seasons of the reality-boxing show on ESPN.

Burnett has a couple of new irons in the reality fire for the summer. On the Lot will pit aspiring filmmakers against one another in a competition to win a Hollywood studio contract.

Also on Burnett’s production slate for the summer is the recently announced Pirate Master: The Adventure Begins, which will feature contestants living on a pirate ship and competing for a million-dollar bounty. Think of it as a cross between Survivor and Pirates of the Caribbean.

Both On the Lot and Pirate Master have already been scooped up in Canada by CTV – which, oddly enough, seems determined to unseat Global as the primary Canadian home for American reality-TV crap.

But I digress. Right now, the focus is on Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? It’s a quiz show that seems to want to prove, once and for all, that your average American adult is actually dumber than your average fifth-grade American kid. Well, duh!

The show, which has been picked up by Global, has recruited longtime blue-collar comedian Jeff Foxworthy as its host. Presumably, Foxworthy is smarter than a fifth-grader – although we’re not really sure of that.

If all else fails here, though, Foxworthy can always launch into his trademark jokes: “You might be a redneck if…you’re not smarter than a fifth-grader.” Yuk. Yuk. Yuk.

As we’ve seen on Survivor and his other shows, though, Burnett is a master carnival barker, populating his reality creations with colourful competitors who provide plenty of entertainment value – not to mention the occasional bit of freak-show appeal.

Fox is doing its part for the carnival here, too. The network is scheduling three preview episodes of Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? this week, in the slots following American Idol on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. The series then takes over the timeslot previously occupied by The O.C. on Fox’s Thursday-night schedule.

Quiz shows have really been a part of television ever since the medium was born. And they tend to experience a resurgence everyonce in a while.

This isn’t a typical quiz show, of course. But if anyone can make it work, it’s Burnett.

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