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ABC's You Deserve It another big prize tear-wringer

Dallas native Chris Harrison seems to be everywhere. ABC photo

Premiering: Monday, Nov. 21st at 8:01 p.m. (central) on ABC
Hosted by: Chris Harrison, with Brooke Burns in the field
Produced by: Dick de Rijk, Chris Coelen, Matilda Zoltowski, Jeff Krask

Before getting to our main topic, let me ask this: Do you think it'd be cool to be named Dick de Rijk?

It rolls effortlessly off the tongue in a way that "Uncle Barky" never will. Perhaps Dick de Rijk should have been the guy to host American Bandstand. Or star in Boogie Nights. Or open a national chain of skating rinks.

Instead he's the main creative mind behind Deal Or No Deal and now a new prime-time jump-up-and-downer called You Deserve It. Which means that Dick de Rijk is really rich and perfectly able to withstand any jokes about his name. And hey, it beats the reverse -- Rijk de Dick.

An off-camera announcer boldly proclaims that "Tonight, a riveting new breed of game show is born." Not only that, but behold the "heroes" who are selflessly "secretly playing for a person in need." Monday's first of six scheduled episodes premieres in a nice velvety slot between the final fall performance edition of ABC's Dancing with the Stars and a new episode of Castle.

The show's frontman is the much less adventuresomely named Chris Harrison, who just can't seem to get a job these days. All the 40-year-old Dallas native has going for him at present is The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, Bachelor Pad and his second consecutive year as host of the Miss America Pageant, which airs Jan. 14th on ABC.

You Deserve It is a meld of Queen For A Day, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, Secret Millionaire and other reward-driven tearjerkers. Harrison prefers to call it "the show that believes it's better to give than to receive."

The first hour introduces viewers to best friends Stacey Finnerty and Michelle Brislen. The latter's husband died four months ago in a drowning accident, leaving her with two young daughters and lots of bills to pay.

Stacey wants to help while Michelle is kept in the dark -- literally. While she plays for fairly large cash sums, Michelle supposedly is none the wiser while in a movie theater with her daughters. Brooke Burns, another Dallasite by birth, is lurking out in the lobby with some of Michelle's friends, keeping in touch with Harrison via the miracle of split screen technology and selective editing. She just can't wait to burst in and surprise Michelle with whatever money is suddenly coming her way.

The game is fairly pedestrian and not coincidentally has elements of the luck required in Deal or No Deal. There are no statuesque models with pop-open suitcases, though. Instead it's a five-part progression through raw numbers and clues, with the weepy, excitable and at times somewhat dense Stacey laboring to win the biggest payday possible while members of her family sit nearby for no particular reason.

Potential jackpots progress from $10,000 to $250,000. The first one begins with a "Who?" puzzler. Harrison offers the first clue free of charge, with additional unseen clues randomly matched with amounts of money to be subtracted from the grand total.

"This game is part skill, part luck," Harrison keeps saying while Stacey burns her way through both clues and dough. My guess is that most viewers will deduce the opening answer well before she does. But then again, we don't have to play in front of a studio audience while in constant close proximity to Harrison's high-beam smile and words of encouragement.

Harrison may be the reigning "Most Sympathetic/Synthetic Man in the World," whether presiding over those faux gut-wrenching rose ceremonies or reminding viewers that they've just shared what "has truly been an amazing evening" on Monday's premiere of You Deserve It.

It's hoped that Michelle truly and fully deserves the money coming her way at show's end. And that Stacey won't someday demand a cut of it. 'Cause that wouldn't be too heroic.

Harrison and Dick de Rijk of course will be handsomely rewarded, too. And frankly, the ebullient Harrison may deserve every penny for convincingly exclaiming "Yeah ha ha ha!" after Stacey at one point luckily picks one of the lesser money deductions to keep the climactic $250,000 jackpot from shrinking too much.

He's also very good at bestowing comforting hugs on weepy contestants during a show that nevertheless doesn't really cut it in the realm of all-time great quiz show concepts. That never stopped Deal Or No Deal, though. And now, once again -- game's on.