$25M 'Hoax' a total bust, for our money
By DAVID BIANCULLI
DAILY NEWS TV CRITIC
What do you get when you take the guys behind "The Biggest Loser," "Manhunt: The Search for America's Most Gorgeous Male Model" and "Scare Tactics" and have them work on a new reality series?
Junk, that's what.
NBC's "$25 Million Dollar Hoax," a three-part series premiering tonight at 10, isn't just bad. It's odious.
"$25 Million Dollar Hoax" isn't even an original bad idea. It's a bad ripoff, done even more repugnantly than the original. In this case, the original was the Fox reality series "My Big Fat Obnoxious FiancÚ," in which a young blond woman conned her family into believing she was marrying a slob.
In "Hoax," the blond, Christine Sanford, is handed a $5 million check from Ed McMahon, a prize from the faux Internet site "BigWin.Net." (Later, she'll get a chance to increase the prize by spinning a wheel, rigged to hit $25 million.)
The alleged dramatic payoff, though, is that the young woman has to alienate her family by spending the prize money as fast as possible, and only on herself. Everywhere she shops, actors are planted as salespeople to make the experience as degrading as possible for the family members who join her.
If every family member sticks around and shows up for the fake finale, then Christine wins $400,000 for her family. If not, they get zero.
"Hoax" is the kind of show that shouldn't have credits. It should have blames. George Gray, the smarmy host, also presided over "Todd TV." Ben Silverman ("The Biggest Loser"), Stuart Krasnow ("Manhunt") and Kevin Healy and Scott Hallock ("Scare Tactics") actually manage a sort of reverse synergy here: Their combined effort is even worse than their individual ones.
"It's only going to get worse," the narrator says after Christine's first shopping spree.
As she shops for overpriced outfits and charges a Hummer on her game-show credit card, Christine's family begins to simmer. Their discomfort is supposed to provide our entertainment, and made all better by the actual cash if they make it through this sadistic gauntlet.
It's the tasteless TV equivalent of blood money. NBC Universal television group President Jeff Zucker should be ashamed of himself - not only for producing this disgusting waste of time, but for stealing from Fox and doing it so poorly.
"It was only 20 minutes in," Christine says as she begins duping her loved ones for the sake of a reality-TV payoff, "and I was already feeling really crappy."
See you and raise you, sweetheart.