Weakest Link

Weakest Link Is Stronger Than You’d Think

As the proliferation of reboots, remakes, revivals, and spinoffs increases with time, it becomes easier and easier to make the case that there’s no longer any sincerity or authenticity on television.

Ever since The Virus™ became the center of our lives, dominating our media cycle, TV watchers have been more hard-pressed than ever for quality entertainment with personality.

One of my favorite formats of TV entertainment—and one I think is often criminally overlooked—is the game show. Game shows, at their core, are fully representative of the reason we watch television in the first place: to be entertained.

Is there a more pure, distilled way to experience entertainment than to watch people playing a game? I’d argue there isn’t. But there’s still an art to making a game show that I think one recent reboot in particular has really nailed.

The original British version of Weakest Link (and its first American spinoff) were hosted starting in 2001 by the cold and devilishly detached Anne Robinson, who is perhaps best known for her catchphrase, “You are the weakest link. Goodbye!” In 2020, that charm was channeled once again into a full reboot on NBC.

The new Weakest Link features rules familiar to any previous fans of the show, but simple enough that they can be explained pretty succinctly: eight contestants take turns answering trivia questions of increasing value, with each contestant having the opportunity to bank the money for previous correct questions. Each round one person is voted off the team until two are left, who then face off for the total money banked throughout the game.

Perhaps the thing about the new Weakest Link which worried me the most for its prospective ratings was the replacement of host Anne Robinson, whose trademark dry brevity and digs at her contestants often carried the show. However, perennial meanie Jane Lynch brings a similar vibe to the game, scolding the “teammates” for banking meager amounts of cash and smiling wryly when they gang up on each other.

And, yes, she does say it: “You are the weakest link, goodbye.” And when she does, it never fails to remind me of Lynch’s  cult-classic-character Sue Sylvester from Glee. Although she has a distinct lack of an English accent, Lynch took Robinson’s methodical persona and made it her own, never copying but always paying homage.

The cutthroat nature of a lot of game shows is what really draws viewers in; in art, conflict drives plot and that is what ultimately entertains us. And let me tell you: the format of Weakest Link is rife with opportunities for conflict to arise. It may sound silly, but as the rounds fly by and the team’s size is whittled down from eight, I generally start feeling a connection to one or more of the contestants, hoping they can eke out a victory even if the other teammates are turning on them.

I remember watching early-afternoon syndicated episodes of the original Weakest Link after school at my grandparents’ house. Behind Jeopardy! (the king of all game shows), I’ve always felt that Weakest Link had one of the best executions of the game show format and I was disappointed that it had such a short-lived run on American TV (it lasted 12 years in the United Kingdom).

With NBC’s true-to-form primetime revival of the program this fall, I can’t help but smile at the fact that the concept of the game show lives on to entertain us. If you’re looking to be entertained and you have 55 minutes to spare, you can’t go wrong popping on an episode of Weakest Link.

IMAGE TAKEN from Primetimer.com