The quiz show owes its ratings to marketing, says Kristen Baldwin

By Kristen Baldwin
April 25, 2001 at 04:00 AM EDT
Weakest Link: Chris Haston

”The Weakest Link” is a boring, vapid ripoff

I certainly hope NBC West Coast President Scott Sassa has sent his promotion department a few fruit baskets since ”The Weakest Link” premiered last Monday at 8 p.m, since it’s their savvy marketing that turned this uninteresting and unoriginal game show into a hit. We, the viewers, did our part, too, dutifully succumbing to the hype and gobbling up the ”You are the weakest link — Goodbye!” catchphrase NBC force fed us. (I have a dim memory of a time when catchphrases occurred organically after catching our collective fancy… oh well.)

It’s completely puzzling to me that ”Link” is succeeding — the show’s third airing pulled its highest numbers yet: 17.49 million viewers — when so many similar ”Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” ripoffs have tanked before it. ”Link” is as shameless in trying to steal Reege’s thunder, from the knock off set, lighting, music, camerawork, as Fox’s tacky ”Greed” or CBS’ inscrutable ”Winning Lines” were.

The only difference between NBC’s new hit and the aforementioned failures is that ”Link” borrows heavily from two shows instead of one — though its attempts at ”Survivor”-izing the game show format are, in a word, weak.

The ”Link” producers try to create a veneer of Richard Hatch like strategy between the contestants by having a hush voiced announcer offer repetitious analysis before each vote: ”[Contestant name here] was statistically the weakest link in this round, but did the other contestants notice?” The vapid post- ejection interviews with the weak links, most of which consist of ”I think [contestant name here] should go next, aren’t too scintillating, either.

Don’t think I’ve forgotten the ”Link” secret weapon: snippy host Anne Robinson. Yep, she’s mean. Yep, she makes merciless fun of the contestants. But when Robinson’s targets are so blissfully ignorant, struggling to answer such simple questions as ”Who wrote ‘On the Road’?”, watching them get reamed out is a bit too fish in a barrel banal to be fun. And hearing the audience overreact to Robinson’s digs (”Woooooooooh!”) makes me wonder if producers imported these folks from the set of ”Married … With Children.”

In other words, ”Weakest Link” is a remarkable bore. Goodbye.

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