A book can be judged by its cover, and appearances are not so deceiving.
That is the lesson of “Identity,” an NBC game show that begins tonight and requires a contestant to match 12 occupations with 12 strangers entirely by how they look. The fat lady in a magenta ball gown does indeed turn out to be the opera singer. The Asian man in a kimono jacket and black headband is, sure enough, the sushi chef. It’s a little harder to determine which young woman is the kidney donor, but the process of elimination is a huge help.
As Penn Jillette, the show’s host, puts it, “This show is all about snap judgments.”
It is also a perverse premise in a society where people are always being instructed not to give in to prejudice or facile stereotypes. The classic game shows of yesteryear like “What’s My Line?” and “To Tell the Truth” sought to confound panelists’ expectations and biases. Celebrities like Bennett Cerf and Kitty Carlisle asked a lot of questions and were still regularly stumped by mystery guests who turned out to not to fit preconceived notions.