'Unan1mous': Zero Fun Game

Who will win the money? In this group, it seems no one is deserving.
Who will win the money? In this group, it seems no one is deserving. (Fox)
By John Maynard
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 22, 2006

TV tip for the savvy viewer: At 9:30, after tonight's "American Idol" results show, grab that remote and quickly switch away from Fox. Watch the end of ABC's "Lost" or CBS's "Criminal Minds." Heck, go to PBS and watch whatever it's showing in the middle of its endless pledge month.

But, do not be suckered into watching Fox's torturous new game show "Unan1mous," which in a half-hour crams in several of the worst reality show gimmicks and crosses the border of tastelessness . . . all while remaining flat-out dull.

And having the "1" in the title doesn't make it cool, either.

It's a shame, really, coming from the network that has tried to take at least one high road in reality television, and benefited handily, with "American Idol." Love it or hate it -- and ratings suggest more people are in the former category -- the show is a sleekly produced, innocent return to the variety show that rarely fails to entertain.

It almost makes you forget that Fox was the standard-bearer for bad reality TV with such shows as "Temptation Island" and "Love Cruise."

But Fox shows that it's still not immune from rolling out rubbish like this and, obviously, hopes the show can flourish by sticking it after top-rated "Idol."

Here's the premise: Nine strangers are holed underground in a posh bunker that would make Vice President Cheney envious, where they must remain until they can unanimously vote who in the group should win $1.5 million. The longer it takes for them to decide, however, the less there is to win as the prize money begins a countdown to zero each second they cannot come to a decision.

Things quickly go south when the show discloses embarrassing facts about their lives, with members voting to eliminate the person they decide has the most incriminating secret. One poor guy reveals that he spent time in a mental hospital, and some members believe that's cause for banishment.

Greed also takes over, creating an every-man-for-himself atmosphere and possibly dooming them to a long time underground. It turns out you won't much care whether this group ever gets out.

Let's start with Jonathan, the hunky real estate broker who tells the group that he is suffering from testicular cancer. He actually isn't, revealing in a viewer-only "confessional" that he made it up because "you gotta do what you gotta do" to win the game. Not funny, just wrong.

Reality TV's favorite and most reliable character is back: The Outspoken, Finger-Waving Black Woman, cut from the same cloth as Omarosa, who this time comes in the form of a minister named Kelly. She stirs things up with her views on homosexuality, telling fellow contestant Jameson, who as a gay man is another reality staple: "God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve, honey."

Jameson does not take that well.

Monitoring the action is an unnamed male who pops up on a TV screen to explain the rules and count the votes. He's supposed to invoke Big Brother, but actually resembles a post-pubescent Anthony Michael Hall, only with glasses and a goatee.

Throughout the show, as the contestants bicker, cry and throw up, we overhear such things as, "This honestly feels like a living hell," and "I can't believe I got myself into this."

How about that? This show writes its own review.

Unan1mous (30 minutes) debuts tonight at 9:30 on Channel 5.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company