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The Million Second Quiz illuminates the Cougar Town divide

- September 9th, 2013

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There was a time when trivia was seen as trivial.

The board game Trivial Pursuit became a cultural phenomenon in the 1980s because it was unique. Prior to that, having random bits of essentially useless knowledge in your head did not necessarily make you a hero. Yes, the game show Jeopardy! was around, but it was seen as more of an intellectual endeavor.

These days there certainly are avenues through which a trivia expert can get rich. One of those is The Million Second Quiz, which debuts Monday, Sept. 9 on NBC and City.

This is a full-on trivia assault. The Million Dollar Quiz airs every night from Monday till Saturday this week, takes a break on Sunday for a primetime NFL game, then airs four more nights next week, with the two-hour finale on Thursday, Sept. 19. Americans love their trivia, but clearly not as much as they love their football.

Anyway, The Million Second Quiz, hosted by Ryan Seacrest (what, he didn’t have enough to do?), is a test of endurance as contestants battle each other in a series of trivia contests. The competition is broadcast live from a three-story, hourglass-shaped structure in Manhattan.

Money is accumulated by sitting in the “Money Chair” and answering trivia questions against a rival. For each second a player remains in the chair, the money metre adds $10 to the total.

NBC claims the ultimate winner will have accumulated “the largest prize in game show history.” I assume that means monetarily and not, you know, physically.

And, of course, there is a home-play element to The Million Second Quiz, as TV networks desperately try to keep you engaged. Viewers – in the United States only, I would assume – will be able to play along in sync and get a chance to be chosen live on air as a contestant for the following night’s show.

The outside-the-box broadcast schedule for The Million Second Quiz is an interesting move in the current TV landscape. Can viewers focus on a show like this for an intense two-week period?

Then again, a lot of people watch Jeopardy! every night. And it’s not as if you couldn’t skip an episode or two of The Million Second Quiz and pick it right back up.

In a wider sense, though, it’s funny to see what has happened to the concept of trivia. On the classic sitcom Cheers, Cliff Clavin (played by John Ratzenberger) was seen as unbelievably annoying for his trivia expertise. Then trivia got kind of cool in the late 1980s and 1990s.

By the 2000s, it seemed there was a trivia divide between old and young. I remember laughing really hard at a scene in the sitcom Cougar Town, when the college-aged Travis (Dan Byrd) was sitting in the restaurant owned by Grayson (Josh Hopkins). Speaking to Grayson, a dismissive Travis says something along the lines of, “Just when I thought your place couldn’t get any more lame … BAR TRIVIA.”

I don’t know what the Travises of the world are going to think of The Million Second Quiz. But NBC clearly hopes they’re outnumbered by the Graysons and Cliff Clavins and Jeopardy! junkies.

Bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

Harold Perrineau is Lost no more; now everyone knows his songs in Wedding Band

- October 31st, 2012

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Everybody always knows all the songs you’re playing. There’s never that awkward moment when you announce, “And now here’s something from our latest album,” and everyone groans.

That’s the up-side of being in a wedding band according to Harold Perrineau, one of the stars of the new comedy series Wedding Band.

“Everybody knows the words and nobody is going anywhere,” said Perrineau, who is pictured above in full rock ‘n’ roll pose. “They’re all screaming and they all want to have a good time.

“And yet if you’re observant, there is hilarity to be found all around.”

Wedding Band, which debuts Saturday, Nov. 10 on MuchMore in Canada and on TBS in the U.S., stars Perrineau, Brian Austin Green, Derek Miller and Peter Cambor as four dudes in a wedding band called Mother of the Bride.

The foursome is intent on moving up the chain of command in the wedding-band world. And yes, there is a chain of command.

“It’s a whole sub-genre in the music business,” said Perrineau, who is best known for his roles on Lost and Sons of Anarchy.

“You can be really popular as a wedding band, people request you. There’s a hierarchy, you can move up the ladder.”

There are rivalries, too. One of the funniest scenes in the first episode of Wedding Band is when Mother of the Bride gets into a physical fight with a Def Leppard cover band called Armageddon It.

Perrineau’s character, Stevie, is an “African-Canadian” – it’s a one-off joke early in the first episode – who is both the newest member of the band and its most seasoned member.

Stevie is an accomplished studio musician who has played bass with the biggest acts in the world, but his face never has been on an album cover because he hasn’t been an official member of any band – until now. He relishes playing live and being in the spotlight, even one as narrow as the spotlight into which Mother of the Bride crowds.

Stevie quickly is schooled by the veteran Mother of the Bride members on how to suss out the ceremony attendees.

“That whole Derek thing makes me laugh more than almost anything in the pilot,” said Perrineau, referring to the stereotypical guy at a wedding who just never is going to hook up with anyone. But the band still has to make sure every single person has a good time, because that leads to more bookings.

“At every wedding there’s a Derek, and as his tie gets a little lower and a little looser, that’s when he needs to be made an honorary band member,” Perrineau said. “And if you do that, he’ll also sneak you booze all night.

“Now, you can go with the tragedy that often happens at weddings. But if you focus on the funny stuff, that’s why I think this genre works, with films like The Wedding Singer or Wedding Crashers, any of those.”

Perrineau was a musical theatre major in college so he has some skills in this world. But training aside, Wedding Band showcases a very unique aspect of the music biz.

“You really get to be the rock star you’ve always wanted to be,” Perrineau said.

Rock star, mock star, same dif.

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv