By Shawn McKenzie 04/17/2006
FOX’s “Unan1mous” is similar to other reality shows (mostly CBS’s “Big Brother”), except that there is an air of creepiness to it…which makes it more interesting than the promos make it out to be.
The ad looking for participants of this show had to be something like this: “FOX is looking for nine strangers to be shacked up together and get cut off from the outside world. In the end there will a monetary prize for one participant.” That still doesn’t explain one of the participants…but we’ll get to her later (remind me to discuss “Kelly.”) The participants had to have thought that FOX was doing a rip-off of CBS’s “Big Brother”…and in a sense, they are. The diverse group of nine strangers are locked in a temperature-hot bunker, where they’ll remain without clocks or outside natural light until they decide who is worthy of a $1.5 million cash prize. Sounds simple…right? There are several twists to the game, and other critics have bashed the show for being mean-spirited with those twists. For me…I like twists, because they make a reality show interesting. The participants are given instructions by an unseen female voice to do things like go to the meeting table, and then the host (J.D. Roth, the executive producer and co-creator of this show, who looks like an older version of Seth Green) pops his head up on a giant TV screen and tells them how the game works. The nine people have to decide who gets the money, and the vote has to be unanimous, because failure to come up with a unanimous vote carries a dire consequence. If anyone decides to leave early, the money will immediately be cut in half. They are given these metallic spheres with dials on them that the participants must use in order to dial in the name of the person that they want to vote for (Roth tells them that they can’t vote for themselves…so it’s not really a unanimous vote, but details don’t seem to matter here.) The participants drop the spheres into a tube, and Roth counts the votes. Obviously, since this show didn’t end after the first episode, the vote wasn’t unanimous, so they were subjected to a “dire consequence.”
Before we get to that consequence, let’s meet our nine players (some of these descriptions are from the FOX press notes.) Adam is a 35-year-old professional poker player and bartender who is “very liberal and competitive.” Jameson is a 38-year-old human resources manager. In his spare time, he is a gay activist. Jamie is a 24-year-old choreographer, and is a bow and rifle hunter in her spare time. Jonathan is a 30-year-old self-described womanizer who works in real estate finance. Kelly is a 49-year-old minister who runs an e-business to mentor people in order to make money. She is also a conservative Republican who is very judgmental against gays (so you knew that she was going to get into it immediately with Jameson.) She is also a huge hypocrite…but more on that later. Richard is a 42-year-old “very opinionated” writer. Steve is a 43-year-old truck driver who is a conservative Christian. He is married and has three kids. Tarah, a 25-year-old designer who is a young Republican (man…there are a lot of religious and conservative players here…I thought that FOX News Corp. was going to keep their fingers out of the entertainment division.) Vanessa is a 36-year-old first grade teacher. She is a married mother of two, is an atheist, and is liberal.
Back to the “dire consequence.” Since they failed to come up with a unanimous vote, the group had to decide who will be outcast from the game…meaning they will denied the chance to win the money, but they will still stay in the bunker and participate in votes. If they are “outcast”…what will stop them from leaving? If they do that, then they really screw the other players by watching the prize money be sliced in half. As third episode shows, being outcast doesn’t mean that you are completely out of the game. Anyway…they vote for the outcast by reading three secrets by three of the players that they didn’t want anyone to know. They have to decide which secret is the worst, and the owner of that secret will be the outcast. The three secrets are: someone filed for bankruptcy even though he or she has earnings over $100,000; on more than one occasion, authorities have detained this participant for carrying live ammunition; and one participant was a patient in a mental ward. Personally, I think that the first one is the worst secret, but they decide that the potential whack job is the worst (good going…deny a mentally unstable person the prize and keep him there anyway.) That person was Richard, and he has to wear a jumpsuit with a big red X on the shoulder to indicate that he is the outcast.
The second vote for whom gets the money is almost unanimous. Steve is almost given the money, but Jonathan is the lone dissenter, because he still wants to play the game. Jonathan has been faking having testicular cancer for sympathy, which is slightly offensive to me, because I have a family member who had that (he is okay now though.) The penalty for not coming to a unanimous decision this time is that they will lose $1 for every second they don’t come to one.
Now I want to get to why Kelly is a hypocrite. First…she says that “money is the root of all evil”…so why did she choose to be on this show? No one forced her to play! Second…she was the owner of the bankruptcy secret. So…she screwed the government for profit…who is the evil one now? Third…she decides to leave the game in the third episode, and the money is sliced in half (Richard is brought back into the game from his outcasting following her departure.) Is she planning to give some of the people who could really use it the money from her $100,000 bank account? I won’t get into how stupid and ignorant she sounded in her argument over Jameson’s sexual orientation. She was just a despicable person…but I wish she hadn’t left, because I would have been fascinated to see how much more worse she would have gotten.
“Unan1mous” is from 3 Ball Productions, the producers of NBC’s “The Biggest Loser” and the WB’s “Beauty and the Geek.” Those two shows are “nice” shows (fortunately, they are not “sappy,” a la ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition”), but this is the first “evil” show that they have produced. Honestly, I don’t care, because the many twists and turns that go on this show makes me want to tune in every week. It’s only a half-hour long (can you remember the last time a reality show was a half-hour long that wasn’t syndicated or the results show for another competitive reality show?) It always ends on a cliffhanger (what’s up with FOX and weekly cliffhangers? They are already delectably torturing me with the Monday action shows “Prison Break” and “24!”) They are out-Big Brothering “Big Brother” with its Orwellian overtones (the voiceover lady and Roth have a creepy echo to their voices whenever they speak.) If I had a major complaint about the show, it would be that adding a number to the show’s title is just goofy (it’s the same complaint I have with CBS’s “Numb3rs.”) Otherwise…we TV critics may not be unanimous on our opinion of this show, but this TV geek gives it a “yes” vote.
DO NOT MISS THIS SHOW!
Try to catch this show every week...
If a better show is on, tape this one...
If nothing else is on, maybe this will be good...
If this show is on, change the channel immediately!