Tag Archives: Cash Cab

Taxi 0-22 $

The Quebec version of Cash Cab has started filming. Unlike its anglo Canadian counterpart, Taxi payant not trying to pass itself off as educational or science programming, instead headed for the generalist TQS network.

There’s a comment to be made here about yet another international reality show franchise being licensed for local adaptation and that qualifying as original programming, but it’s too sad to analyze, so I’ll let the CRTC do it for me:

The Commission notes that TVA broadcasts a significant amount of Canadian programming and applauds that fact. However, the Commission notes that for several years TVA has been broadcasting programs based on foreign concepts and produced in-house or by independent Canadian producers. These include the popular programs Star Académie, Le Banquier, Le Cercle and La Classe de cinquième. The Commission notes that other conventional French-language broadcasters are also taking part in this trend, including the CBC (Tout le monde en parle, Pyramide) and TQS (Wipeout, Le mur, Call TV).

The Commission is concerned by this growing trend is to the detriment of the development of creative Canadian and Quebec talent. The Commission intends to discuss the issue at the 2011 public hearing.

Rue Frontenac has a story.

Cash Cab and other Discovery Channel cash grabs

Back in January, I worried with my infinite wisdom about an application to the CRTC by Discovery Channel Canada to allow game shows as part of its programming categories. I worried that this might be an excuse to import a U.S. British trivia show called Cash Cab into Canada, stretch the limits of the channel’s mandate and suck up some easy cash.

Sure enough, that’s exactly what happened. The CRTC approved the change in its license, and Discovery announced that it was carbon-copying importing the format for use here. I still held out hope that the format would be predominantly educational in nature, and/or that the subjects of the questions would deal with science, technology and nature.

After watching a couple of episodes (you can see complete episodes online here), it seems my original fears were more than justified.

For those who haven’t seen it (or don’t want to see it), Cash Cab’s format has a guy driving a van through the streets of Toronto, and then surprising people who come aboard by telling them they’re on a TV game show they’ve never heard of (a part that’s either hilarious or awkward depending on your tastes). He then asks them questions, gives money for each right answer, and when they get three wrong they’re booted out of the cab.

It’s nothing more than a cookie-cutter trivia show with a lame hook. Some of the questions are certainly scientific in nature, but others relate to sports, business, history and even popular culture. It’s hard to distinguish these questions from the ones on every other trivia-based game show out there.

Discovery’s reputation: Destroyed in Seconds

For how bad Cash Cab is, Destroyed in Seconds is worse. This embarrassment of programming is essentially a carbon copy of World’s Most Amazing Videos (which currently airs on Spike TV), in all the bad ways imaginable. Here’s how both shows work:

  1. Find a video that shows some catastrophic event: a plane crash, a bridge collapse, an explosion. Usually this will be amateur video of poor quality, but that’s ok. In fact, it adds to the realness of the show.
  2. Ensure that nobody dies in the event that took place. You wouldn’t want to be accused of profiting off someone’s death, after all. You want miraculous escapes and/or recoveries here. Exceptions can be made if the video is really good and you don’t actually see any bodies.
  3. Show the video as a man with an exaggerated voice explains the situation (usually something along the lines of “it looks like an ordinary day, but in a few seconds their lives will be in mortal danger”), until the surprising, terrifying event happens.
  4. Have the narrator explain, as briefly as possible, what caused the catastrophy, as well as the aftermath.
  5. Show the moment of catastrophe over and over and over again. Slow-motion, zoomed-in, any different way you can think of. Have the narrator point out how the people on the video were “inches from certain death” or “moments from disaster” or “lucky to escape with only minor injuries”
  6. Move on to the next clip.

There is no educational value to this show whatsoever. You learn nothing other than what an explosion looks like.

Compare that with a show like Mayday (my personal favourite) which re-enacts airplane accidents (with cool computer graphics) and then explains very seriously and clearly what caused them and what has been done to ensure they don’t happen again. Or Mythbusters, which tests sometimes silly hypotheses, but does them in (mostly) scientific ways. Both have the idea of teaching viewers as the main focus, and entertainment is a convenient medium to do so.

For Cash Cab and Destroyed in Seconds, the main focus is to entertain. That’s not a bad thing, and these shows have their homes (Cash Cab on the Game Show Network, Destroyed in Seconds on Spike TV), but neither belong on the Discovery Channel.

If we’re going to continue with the idea that specialty channels should have protected formats (and you’re well within your rights to question whether that’s necessary anymore), we should honour those formats, not try to find ways around them to pad the bottom line.

Trivia is learning too!

Remember back in January when the Discovery Channel wanted to add game shows to its allowable programming, and I (and others) suggested it was because they wanted to bring in this Cash Cab show that airs on the U.S. network?

Well, that’s exactly what’s happening. Digital Home reports Discovery Canada has added the show to its lineup.

It will be a Canadian version instead of the show instead of an import, so I can’t comment on the type of questions being asked, but if it’s regular trivia like the U.S. and U.K. shows, I don’t think it will fit in with Discovery’s mandate.

You can argue that learning about trivia is also learning, but that would make every trivia game show fair game for this channel. Jeopardy, 1 vs. 100, Beat the Geeks, Hollywood Squares and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire would all be OK.

Is that what we want the Discovery Channel to look like?