Right, thanks to Kevin G for the tipoff here, The Genius is a Korean reality game seemingly based loosely on the Liar Game manga series (which has been turned into several films and series of a dramatised Japanese TV show).
In it, South Korean celebrities vie to come out on top over a load of game theory tasks and psychological strategy challenges. Winning games earns garnets (each one worth 1m Korean Won, roughly £570) which can be used to buy advantages or trade with other players to buy their favour, at the end of the series the winner’s garnets are converted into cash. Doing worst at a game means you’re up for elimination and have to pick someone to join you in a death match.
It’s very stylishly done, and when the game is entertaining it’s REALLY entertaining. The problem is this really isn’t a show for everyone – when the game is a bit dull an entire episode tends to suffer and at over an hour each that’s a lot of people sitting at a table to get through – and this is something a fair few episodes suffer from – too much maths, not enough action. Whilst South Koreans tend to be smart, good luck in trying to explain the games to an average Westerner in a way that they won’t go “not for me” and switch over. This all said, a western broadcast hour is only about 40 minutes, so it’d be interesting to see how it would cut with 25 minutes lopped off.
Anyway you can watch the entire recent series for yourself with English subtitles thanks to one awesome Youtuber. This is episode one:
I’m currently up to episode 9, and I’d suggest if you just wanted to watch one episode as a sampler I’d pick one of the following (bear in mind it’s an elimination competition so you’d be spoilering yourself if you jump ahead):
- Ep 4: Zombie Game – A fun game of subterfuge and logic and bluff.
- Ep 5: Scamming Horse Race – This is probably my fave ep as it is based around a solvable logic puzzle. Each contestant is given a hint to the result of a fixed horse race, by themselves it’s not enough, but combined with other people’s hints the result is work-outable. Whoever bets the most chips on the top two horses wins.
- Ep 7: Open Pass – A game based around deck-building which looks like being all luck until some of them work out how to game the game.
I expect a number of readers will really dig this, so there you go.