WeakUSt Link

By | September 9, 2020

As we know, the US are bringing back Weakest Link in the US with Jane Lynch (good choice, we’re still waiting for a Robert Rinder led UK one) at the end of the month. Buzzerblog has been printing all sorts of rumours on Twitter, let’s HAVE SOME OPINIONS.

  • The money chain’s going to change throughout the show.

Be of no doubt, the original US money chain was rubbish, starting at 1/125th of the top prize (as opposed to pretty much all our versions starting at 1/50th). On average, a UK episode gives away around 30% of its max prize, in the US, more like 5%. The majority of the game is played on those first four rungs of the ladder, so the question is is there going to be enough money in those rungs to feel worthwhile? Even in the age of Deal or No Deal, a £200 bank on Weakest Link felt like a big wodge. We don’t know what the top prize of the new WL is going to be, but it’s been suggested the final round is going to be worth $500k. It seems pretty unlikely to me that with a million dollar top prize we’ll be looking at $250k-300k for the winner, so it will probably still feel disappointing.

  • Contestants can strategize before votes

This might be quite interesting. Will they have to do it in public or will there be some sort of behind closed doors element? The vote is still presumably going to be public. Is it just going to be people begging for their lives or will there be opportunity to do something more interesting?

  • Immunity going to the Strongest Link

Of all the changes everyone wants this was it, unfortunately I also think everyone is wrong. Weakest Link was probably the first show to pitch itself in the space between “fair” and “just” – probably the defining formatting point of the 2000s. If someone steamrollers their way through the game – great. Is that entertaining? Not especially, and if you know you’re going to lose why try especially hard? You’ll end up winning a small bank. And if we’re left with a final three, let’s say a 9/10 player, a 7/10 player and a 6/10 player – goodbye 7/10 player – 9/10 player enjoy your money, no real point playing the final, nothing surprising is likely to happen. Again, is that entertaining? Does it create other problems whilst solving one?

From a technical perspective Weakest Link has many flaws, but it works as a show because people like lots of questions, the accumulation mechanic, amusing putdowns and frequently tragic and heroic outcomes, and in trying to make a better, more “just” game are you going to lose some of that?

Maybe they’ve managed to cast groups of broadly similar ability. I guess we’ll find out soon enough.

19 thoughts on “WeakUSt Link

  1. Danny Kerner

    well to be fair supermarket sweep will be giving a max 100k prize so could be close to that if not more.

  2. Brandon

    If you think the US money tree was bad, you should see this one from Serbia, it’s so ridiculously steep and cheap. https://youtu.be/gMeST3ePJnk The problem with a bad money tree is that it makes large amounts look tiny. A good solution to the problem of voting out the best players is an idea I had a while ago, in the final each right answer is worth 10% of the pot, so you could vote out all the best players, get an easy victory and maybe go away with 30% of the pot, or you could try to keep in a good contestants to go for more money.

  3. Alex McMillan

    As I said on Twitter, I fear we’re going to see gameplay slow down significantly if someone thinks they’re the current strongest link so they can retain it until the round ends. If you get your first question right, and everyone else gets it wrong, would it be against the rules to just stand silently and let the clock run down?

    1. Brig Bother Post author

      I suspect this won’t be a problem – until it happens. It’s already a hard enough game to play keeping track of everyone else. It’s also a very difficult strategy, as anyone who later who banks and gets their question right will become statistically stronger, and if you do get away with it you just paint a massive target on your back for when you’re not the strongest link later on.

      No, the only way to make the game ‘correct’ is that statistically the weakest person is eliminated each round sans voting. The problem is that’s just 15-1.

  4. Luke S

    Completely agree on the strongest link immunity point – I understand why people would like the idea, as it feels fairer, but not getting the outcome that feels fairest is basically the entire point of the game. (I don’t think we have the data to corroborate this but I suspect that who is the statistical strongest link is often quite arbitrary anyway and basing big advantages on it is probably more weight than it can really bear.)

    I’m really interested in how the tone of this will work. I don’t think you can have a 2002 level of meanness in 2020 (not least with the current backdrop) but the Jane Lynch hire suggests they might be aiming in what I would see as the right direction. More snarky than vicious. Keeping fingers crossed.

    1. Brig Bother Post author

      I always used to find it quite funny that if they got a straight nine in round one, as they often did towards the end, there was still statistically a weak and strong link, basically rewarding the person whose name was first alphabetically (one right, £1,000 banked) and effectively punishing the person next to them (one right, £0 banked, £50 attempted).

      I can’t remember the exact order the stats were read down to work out who was strongest in each round (I did know at one point), something like:

      Most questions right
      Fewest questions wrong
      Money banked
      Least money lost
      Value of questions correct
      Coin flip

      I always thought there was a good argument that banking’s effectively for weak people, but it does mean guaranteeing money for the pot so…

      1. Brandon

        I didn’t know it went down to value of questions, I thought if the others didn’t produce a clear result it went whoever was strongest in the round before.

      2. Dean

        You are right, but missed one thing.

        Taken from someone who supplied the U.S. rules:

        “The strongest link in each timed round is the contestant who provides the most correct answers in that round. If more than one contestant provides the most correct answers (resulting in a tie), then the contestant among the tied contestants who answered the least of questions incorrectly is the strongest link. If more than one contestant answered the least number of questions incorrectly, then the producers look to the following statistics in the following order, until any tie has been eliminated: Most money banked (total for the round); most dollars added to the “chain” (total for the round); and fewest dollars lost as a result of answering a question incorrectly after failing to bank. If, after analyzing all of these statistics, there is still a tie, then the producers look to the above measures of performance on a cumulative basis for the entire game, in the order described above, until all ties have been eliminated. If there is still a tie after the above calculations are made, then the strongest link is selected by a random selection process by one or more of the producers from among the remaining tied contestants.”

        To summarize, it’s…
        1. Most right answers
        2. Least number of wrong answers
        3. Amount of money banked by the player
        4. Amount of money “earned” by answering questions
        5. Least amount of money lost by failing to bank
        6. Full game performance using the previous 5 steps
        7. RANDOM selection by the producers

        1. Matt Clemson

          I’m a little bit surprised ‘time consumed’ isn’t a component. You’d need an adjustment for question complexity, I guess.

          1. Brig Bother Post author

            To be honest that seems like much too much hassle to work out with a pen and paper if you’re recording several episodes a day and there are plenty of easier numerical things instead.

  5. Jon

    I wonder if instead of giving immunity to the strongest link, whether slashing the teams prize fund if they voted the strongest link would be a better way to go.

    Also, I imagine they might just have the but when the host talks to the team, only before they vote, to allow the players to state their case and then get rid of the player voted off straight away.

      1. Brekkie

        Damn the lack of an edit button. Think I meant to go on about mocking the “high stakes” comment that always turns up in press releases, and with BBC budgets I suspect it’ll be more low stakes.

  6. Poochy.EXE

    I suspect the motivation for giving the Strongest Link immunity is not to make the game more “just”, but because of the way the metagame developed, at least on the US version. People started intentionally voting out the strongest player in the later rounds to avoid facing them in the final, and after a season or two of that, some strong players caught on and started sandbagging to avoid attention. The show also becomes very dull if the front half consists of players intentionally missing questions and never building more than a 3-chain.

    That said, I think immunity may be too overpowered and the criteria to determine the Strongest Link isn’t robust enough, so I suspect it’ll simply lead to other problems as players aim for Strongest Link title over actually building up the bank. For one thing, having it primarily based on number of correct answers encourages slowing down to mentally double-check your answers, when it’s supposed to be a fast-paced game of rapid-fire questions.

    1. Brig Bother Post author

      But this doesn’t change the meta, it just means getting rid of strong players early when they don’t have it. It is always going to be an issue when it’s determined with a vote.

  7. BranSul

    I’m going to be completely honest — I disagree about the original chain being THAT bad.

    The purpose of the Weakest Link in the US was to be an exciting, million dollar game show.
    That in itself might have been a mistake — and it wasn’t “exciting” very often, in the sense that Millionaire is exciting, with the whole game riding on every question — but it was exciting, as an American viewer, once in a while. And the only way to make that really possible is by emphasizing risk vs. reward on the chain a little more than the British version did. In other words, being able to reach the target with multiple smaller chains kind of needed to be less important (but still possible).

    As rare as it was, it was more exciting to watch a team risk $10,000 for a chance to reach the $25,000 link because the variation in the chain was so much greater. I grant you that that almost never happened — but when it did happen, as a viewer, my chest was pumping a little bit.

    In short, as an American viewer I personally would have found the game a little more boring if the chain went like 2-5-10-25-50-75-100-125. In my opinion, that would have made it too easy to win huge money, and it would have meant no team would (or should, at least) ever take big risks. Every team would be best served by banking on 25, making the show kind of … well … even more predictable than it already was.

    Those were key parts of the show for me, as a million dollar show. They are much less relevant when the top prize is 10,000 pounds.

    I also fundamentally think reaching the target SHOULD be difficult. That makes it more special when it does happen.

    I know we may disagree on this issue — and that’s fine, I accept that. I’m BranSul on twitter, so you know that we mostly agree on the rest of the issues regarding the new version.

    I think in reality the biggest issue with the original version was that the questions were too hard, were too inconsistent in difficulty, and the rounds were too short. If those three things had been different, the show would have worked better, even if it was otherwise exactly the same.

    But take that all with a grain of salt — because all of these ideas assume that TWL MUST be a million dollar game show. And I always did feel that it SHOULDN’T be. It has always been better as a show that doesn’t take itself too seriously.


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