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Who's Still Standing? gives NBC another holiday game gambit

Host Ben Bailey and contestant Jared Young on Monday's premiere. NBC photo

Premiering:Monday, Dec. 19th at 7 p.m. (central) on NBC
Hosted by: Ben Bailey
Produced by: Craig Plestis, Tim Puntillo

NBC again has its holiday game face on, hoping to also have another Deal or No Deal on its hands and not an Identity crisis.

Both of those big money quizzes also were multi-night December "events." Deal and host Howie Mandel became Peacock mainstays while you can stump your friends with the fact that Penn Jillette presided over the short-lived Identity.

Who's Still Standing, running Monday through Thursday before settling in on Mondays through Jan. 30th, dangles the usual and basically unattainable $1 million cash prize. A single contestant must defeat 10 "Strangers" in successive trivia challenges to hit the big jackpot. Losers are dispatched through a trap door, without any visual evidence of where or how they land. It's apparently supposed to add some sort of mystique, with the usual rabid studio audience chanting "Drop, Drop, Drop!" before the deed is done.

Your host is towering, shaved-headed Ben Bailey, a comedian who's also the face of Discovery Channel's Cash Cab but would look equally at home in an extreme martial arts match. His recurring quips, none of which really register, are nonetheless greeted by uproarious audience laughter.

But Bailey is palatable compared to the irksome off-camera Santa Claus impersonator whose constant "ho ho ho's" might prompt even little Jimmy Skeezicks to finally throw his hands up and declare, "All I want for Christmas is for this guy to shaddup!!!"

Monday's contestant, pictured above, is everyman Jared Young, a volleyball coach from Conway, Ark. He sure would like to win a million bucks, but a few grand would be great, too.

Jared's pretty easy to take compared to many hysterical, pogo-sticking contestants. You'd like to see him walk home with a nice chunk of cash, with which he says he'd buy a guitar and maybe a new car, 'cause he's never owned one. But the game itself gets bogged down with a succession of gratingly easy questions that turn Round 1 into a rather boring marathon between Jared and a hyper-caffeinated challenger named April, who wins $10,000 if she defeats him.

The intellectual challenges on Who's Still Standing? are a bit more taxing than "Whose face is on the Lincoln penny?" Or "What color is an egg white?" Still, consider yourself a big dummy if you can't quickly answer at least 90 percent of this stuff within the allotted 20 seconds.

Contestants who defeat five opponents can take whatever they've won and go home. But all of the money is forfeited if you keep playing and then lose. We won't ruin anything here by revealing how far Jared gets. But let's note that somebody stumbles on a query your gerbil likely could answer. Namely, "In chess, it's what you say when your opponent's king cannot escape." Some of the letters already are filled in. So in this case, it's _ _ _ C _ _ _ T _. Duh, Idiocracy?

"Santa Claus" keeps interjecting during bridges to commercials, urging viewers to play the "At Home Holiday Question" game. The last family member standing -- after four rounds -- wins a grand total of -- nothing. But the real losers are any "winners" who think they need to watch the entire show while standing.

In the end, any remaining in-studio foes of the main player get to compete in what Santa calls the "Mach 7 Rapid Fire Ultimate Speed Round." The winner pockets a few thousand bucks.

Who's Still Standing? requires a wee bit more brain power than Deal or No Deal, which required none. And it's easily more watchable than ABC's grating You Deserve It, which already is outta here after a late November premiere.

This is meant to be faint praise, though, for a show that shows how little its producers think of America's overall brain power. But hey, they'll love watching contestants fall through those trap doors. Jeopardy this isn't.