Game shows are not quiz shows. That should be understood at the outset, because knowledge is not an American virtue; luck is. And so is virtue. Prime-time game shows like “1 vs 100,” which begins tonight on NBC, are not a test of a contestant’s erudition or nerve; they are aspirational reality shows that allow ordinary Joes to go for it all in the hope of transforming their lives.
Personality is obviously more important than education or skill. The contestants selected to play on “1 vs 100” are lively and likable in exactly the same way as those who compete on “Deal or No Deal,” the NBC game show that precedes it. The new one, with Bob Saget as its host, requires slightly more acumen: there are multiple-choice questions. But the principle is the same: big rewards come with big risks. Producers seek out extroverts who do not desperately need the money but who deserve a lucky break nonetheless, because their intentions are pure.