Don’t Fall Asleep
When it comes to game shows, there’s only so many imaginative or original ideas you can come up with before it all starts to feel like well-trodden ground. These sorts of shows have been a staple of cable and mainstream TV since the 1930’s. Since then we’ve seen all sorts of different variations crop up, from the Wheel Of Fortune and Countdown to Catchphrase, Jeopardy and The Cube. Regardless of how many times we see this format, there’s something endearing and engaging that helps it stand the test of time. Never one to miss out on a trend, Netflix step forward with their latest attempt at a mainstream-appealing game show, Awake. With a simple premise and a variety of nicely constructed games, Awake is better than it should be but let down by a final challenge that feels designed to give out the least amount of money possible.
Every episode begins with contestants counting money in a room for 24 hours. From here, they come out and introduce themselves to the audience before taking part in cognitive games designed to test their endurance and reaction times. Each round sees one person eliminated, with a potential buyout of up to $7500 adding some nice strategy to proceedings. All of this continues through to the final round where the final 2 get a chance to take part in a final buyout. This final round ties back in to their counting task, where they’re made to guess how much they counted exactly, with the most accurate going on to the winning round, or alternatively give up for 10 grand and go home.
The winner of this then goes on to the final round for a chance to win $1 million. This results in two critical decisions – the first to successfully guess how much they counted themselves and either play it safe or risk it for more money. If they can successfully guess how much they counted within a $500 dollar region they win the “big bank”, which is the amount everyone else in the room counted . The second gamble comes from successfully guessing the amount within a $25 dollar region which wins them a million. Given the sleep deprived state of these individuals coupled with the droopy eyes and slow reaction times, these segments are pretty inevitable with their outcome, with an unsuccessful guess seeing them leaving with nothing.
While the host himself is pretty charismatic and the contestants are plucked from the usual array of colourful personas you’d expect from a show like this, it’s the games that will keep you coming back to this one. There’s a good variety of challenges and some of the scientific facts that crop up about the effects of sleep deprivation are a nice touch and certainly add some charm to this. Of course, those expecting the next must-watch game show will be left wanting but it’s interesting to see Netflix branching out into this territory in a more serious manner, especially after their last effort with Flinch.
Although this show does bring up some skepticism around whether these individuals really are sleep deprived or not, given we see them nod off and fall asleep at their desks while counting money, the games themselves are engaging enough to keep you watching. There’s hints of The Cube here too with the physical games while drinking slushies or smashing eggs based on reaction times are a play on some of the cognitive effects sleep deprivation can have on an individual.
I certainly didn’t dislike Awake and there’s enough variety with the games to keep you watching the different episodes. It’s not perfect, and the final challenge does feel unnecessarily difficult to win $1 million, but there’s enough enjoyment that fans of game shows should definitely give this a go.
Verdict - 6/10