7.16.2006

VH1's World Series of Pop Culture Hits a Home Run

The World Series of Pop Culture, VH1's new pop culture quiz tournament program, is a dynamic and intriguing program that will appeal to all pop culture geeks.

Sixteen three-person teams (culled from qualifying tournaments in cities around the country) are competing in a single-elimination tournament in games pitting two teams against each other for five rounds of pop culture trivia. The two teams each send up one team member per round who is judged (by the team) to be the best at the round's subject. The loser of the round is out of the game for the duration. The team with one remaining member at the end wins and advances in the tournament.

The game's subjects include guessing movie titles from brief descriptions (and the same thing for music videos), guessing the parent show when given the title of a TV spin-off, guessing the song title based on a snippet of printed lyrics or the TV program based on a snippet of its theme song lyrics, questions about the movies of a particular performer or director, questions about celebrity tabloid antics, and similar other categories. The exact content of the questions has a bias towards 1980s pop culture, but, for the most part, that's hardly a flaw (and is geared to Gen X'ers, who populate nearly all the teams and, presumably, also the bulk of the audience).

One of the things that makes the show and the games so fun to watch is the quirkiness of the team names and identities. Team names include such monikers as "Peanut Butter & Ginelli" (with a Ginelli as one of the team members, natch), "Cheetara" (a team of frighteningly aggressive women), "Sexual Chocolate" (three lawyers), "Almost Perfect Strangers" (a team formed from the winners of online contests who had never met prior to the competition), and what has got to be the greatest play on a generational in-joke ever, "We're What Willis Was Talkin' About." Bolstering the team names are two elements, team logos and team uniforms. Each team has a bold and inventive team logo that is displayed behind them during the competitions and in the tournament brackets reviewed at the beginning and end of each episode. The uniforms of the teams (which don't seem to have any connection to the logos or even to the team names) include the grey hooded zip-up sweatshirts worn by "Almost Perfect Strangers" and the blue mechanic jumpsuits worn by "Peanut Butter & Ginelli" to school uniforms, matching polo shirts, and one team that has strange matching red fingerless gloves to accompany their otherwise solid black outfits.

The other element that serves as the icing on the baseball-diamond-shaped pop culture cake is host Pat Kiernan. Kiernan is so laid-back as to almost be soporific. But he has a charm and wit in his moderation of the games and in his interactions with the players that alone makes the program worth watching. New York City viewers might recognize Kiernan as a local cable TV news anchor, but I suspect he is a new face to nearly everyone else as he was to me. I hope that this exposure to a national audience leads to bigger and better things for him, because he is someone that I at least would like to see more of.

The World Series of Pop Culture is probably the best VH1 show in years. The network has fallen far since its glory days of "Behind the Music" and "Pop-Up Video" in the late-1990s. Most of its current programming is unwatchable--whether its the net's unfortunate recent "Celebreality" emphasis (consisting of lame reality shows featuring washed-up D-list celebrities) or abysmal programs like "I Love the 70s" or "Best Week Ever" (which feature Z-list "celebrities" no one has ever heard of spouting opinions no one cares about regarding subjects that might otherwise be interesting)--all of which makes the World Series of Pop Culture that much more of a diamond in the rough.

1 comment:

Fred Holliday said...

Well... I think the show blows! And not just because I auditioned and didn't get picked. It really has very very very little to do with that. Yeah. Very little. Hardly anything at all in fact. Yep.