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Review: ABC's 'Card Sharks' Hosted by Joel McHale

By Dustin Rowles | TV | June 13, 2019 |

By Dustin Rowles | TV | June 13, 2019 |


I don’t think I’ve watched a game show in its entirety since that brief era when The Biggest Loser and Who Wants to be a Millionaire were popular primetime network shows. Having now watched three this week, I feel fairly confident in one thing: The producers pump the contestants full of meth before sending them out on television. Good lord, where do they find these people so willing to abandon their restraint and dignity in exchange for several thousand dollars? I’ve never seen people like these out in the wild, and if I did, I would run the other way as quickly as possible, but they would catch and bear-hug me to death because no one can outrun this dangerous combination of crystal methamphetamine and pure, uncut joy. Put these people on a giant hamster wheel, give them an opportunity to win a few shekels in random games of chance, and you could generate the world’s electricity.

This brings me to Card Sharks, the third game show I’ve reviewed during game show week (see also: Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader hosted by John Cena and Press Your Luck hosted by Elizabeth Banks). This one is easily both the dumbest game of the three and also the one that is actually the most fun to watch.

I’d never seen Card Sharks in its original run, nor did I know the rules coming in. There’s no card sharking involved. There is no skill involved. It’s a high/low guessing game. Contestants are asked an inane question, like “How many cat lovers have social media accounts for their pets?” The first contestant hazards a guess, and the second contestant guesses higher or lower, and if the second contestant guesses wrong, the first contestant gets to play. Essentially, the first contestant to correctly guess ten times whether the next card is higher or lower than the previous one gets to move on to the bonus round, where he or she bets $10,000 on another round of high/low. That’s it. A perfect game would net a contestant $500,000 (this will never happen).

And yet, maybe it’s the unencumbered enthusiasm, or maybe it’s the way that Joel McHale gently mocks the contestants, or maybe it’s just the faster pace of play, but Card Sharks was marginally more enjoyable to watch than Press Your Luck. It might also be because McHale’s dry wit (and his history on Community) creates a sort of distance, which allows those of us at home to watch with a more bemused detachment. Or it might just be because, in the premiere episode, the first winning contestant cleaned house and won around $200,000, while the second crapped out by drawing three aces in a row, which is a terrible beat in a game of high/low (In fact, the statistical odds of that are 1 in 27,0725). So, we got the benefit of the highest of highs and the lowest of lows … in a series of high/low games. Fun, that.

I am not suggesting that I would watch this game show again, but I am saying that if I were forced to watch only one primetime network game show Clockwork Orange-style, there are worse than Joel McHale’s Card Sharks.

Meanwhile, according to someone who stumbled upon my Press Your Luck review yesterday, I’m going to need to change the host of that show, and obviously, I will pay for a new host with checks I receive from Disney for providing favorable reviews of Marvel movies.

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Awww, that’s too bad. Elizabeth Banks does not have the support of the “I do not know how things work” demographic.

Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.

Header Image Source: ABC