A Link to the Past

Weakest Link | NBC | S1 E1: Weakest Link Premiere

The Weakest Link is back! The first U.S. version of this British game show aired on NBC from 2001 – 2003 and was hosted by Anne Robinson, the host of the original version across the pond. Much like Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, the show was a phenomenon when it first aired, and its catchphrase, “You are the weakest link. Goodbye!” became iconic. Tonight, the trivia game show returned with Jane Lynch in the host role.

The premise is this: eight contestants answer trivia questions that are read aloud by the host. Each correct answer earns increasing amounts of money that the contestants need to ‘bank’ in order for the amount earned to carry over into the next round. If a contestant answers incorrectly, the dollar amount goes back down to the lowest amount.

After every round, the contestants vote out the person who they think – for whatever reason – is the ‘weakest link’. Maybe it’s the person who answered the fewest questions correctly; maybe it’s a person who didn’t know the answer to a simple question. Maybe it’s a person someone just doesn’t like!

A narrator lets us know statistically who was the strongest link – most questions answered correctly – and who was the weakest. The contestants vote, and whoever gets the most votes is eliminated. In the event of a tie, the strongest link casts the deciding vote.

The final 2 contestants in the game answer 5 trivia questions each; whoever gets the most correct wins the total amount banked.

While waiting for the vote, the host discusses the questions the contestants got wrong; mean snark usually ensued. Anne Robinson was a steely taskmaster who seemed to make the contestants feel like complete idiots, no matter how well (or not) they did in the competition. She was stone-faced and robot-like, and very rarely (if ever?) showed any emotion at all; the British accent most definitely helped add to her stern character.

Anyone who’s ever watched Glee knows that Jane Lynch can do mean. Her Coach Sue Sylvester, was in fact, extremely mean, biting, and insulting. Unfortunately, Ms. Lynch doesn’t quite get to Sylvester-ian levels of mean with her comments. Here are a few examples of her insults before contestants were voted off:

  • “Who’s rap name could be ‘Lil IQ’?”
  • “Who swims in the shallow end of the gene pool?”
  • “Who thinks Fauci is a type of pasta?”
  • “Who think Quentin Tarantino is an entree at Olive Garden?”

Jane Lynch does a fine job as host, but her shtick seems to be that she’s playfully mean, where Anne was just legitimately mean. I’m not saying Lynch should try to insult and eviscerate every contestant, but her “insults” were really tame, even when making fun of people for not knowing answers. It’s a kinder, gentler Weakest Link. Speaking of which…

Lynch repeatedly calls the show The Weakest Link but the title card and listing in the viewing guide just say Weakest Link. It’s just noticeable enough to make me wonder why they didn’t just call it The Weakest Link everywhere… maybe this will change down the road. #TooMuchTimeOnMyHands.

The first episode was a pretty standard affair, and very reminiscent of the previous version of the show; same blue/black and dark color scheme, same rhythm to the game. The trivia questions spanned an extremely wide range of topics, and were all fairly easy and interesting. The rounds went as such:

Round 1: Total Possible Amount: $25K. Total Banked: $8,000
Round 2: Total Possible Amount: $50K. Total Banked: $0
Round 3: Total Possible Amount: $75K. Total Banked: $9,500
Round 4: Total Possible Amount: $100K. Total Banked: $12,500
Round 5: Total Possible Amount: $250K. Total Banked: $17,500
Round 6: Total Possible Amount: $500K. Total Banked: $15,000

The last 2 contestants, Angel and Jay, competed for the total bank of $62,500, and Angel took home the bank. Not bad for answering some questions!

It was definitely fun to see this show back on TV, and I think I’ll let a few pile up before watching again. If the casting department did its job properly, there will hopefully be some much bigger personalities as the show continues. Something tells me this won’t be the game show reboot everyone’s been waiting for (that would have to be ABC’s Supermarket Sweep), but Link could handily fill the COVID related void until scripted shows come back; if it does well, I think they should keep it – but move it to summer and bump up the snark! M

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