The new version is a pretty faithful re-creation of the ‘80s show (which can be sampled on YouTube), only with better prizes. First, contestants answer inane questions (What country is an anagram of “Meg Ryan”?) to rack up “spins.” But there is no actual wheel to spin, a la “Wheel of Fortune.” Rather, the spin takes place on a big board with 18 squares along its perimeter. Most squares offer a prize (mainly cash but also exotic trips and new cars). But some squares depict an ugly red cartoon character dubbed a Whammy, who wipes out all the loot a contestant has accrued.
During a spin, the squares flash on and off in no particular order. The contestant yells “stop” to lock in on the square that’s lit up at that moment. The goal is to pick the exact right time to shout so you’ll land on a big prize, not a Whammy. Confused? Me too!
As game shows go, “Press” is the opposite of the calm and collected “Jeopardy!” With its blinking lights and shouting humans, it is exhausting. And it lasts an hour! Spins are just not that fascinating.
Host Elizabeth Banks of “Hunger Games” and “Pitch Perfect” fame does her best to bring sass and drama. Unfortunately, she must utter hackneyed lines like, “Do you wanna [big pause] press your luck?” If only she’d put on her “Hunger Games” outfit.
In a way, amped-up game shows are the “Hunger Games” of our day. “Press” contestants try to stab each other in the back by using a rule to force an opponent to spin. The Whammy laughs demonically. At least players don’t have to confront crazy monkeys and mutant wolves. But wouldn’t that make a great twist?