CBS’s new sports/comedy/game show hybrid, Game On! led the pack in ratings last night, but that isn’t saying much. Apparently 4.53 million viewers tuned in for the show’s premiere, but I don’t expect them to stay. True, COVID-19 is starting to limit our viewing choices, but despite the show’s good intentions, it’s a mess.
Executively produced by James Corden, Game On! doesn’t seem to know what it is nor does it give a good reason why anyone should bother watching. The idea about the show, I guess, is that CBS has set up Venus Williams to take on Rob Gronkowski to compete in a variety of challenges to see which one is the greater athlete. Both of them have been given a comedian teammate: Ian Karmel for Team Venus and Bobby Lee for Team Gronk. In addition, each week both teams will receive one additional guest star teammate. Right off the bat the show feels unfair. In the premiere, Gronkkowski is given comedian Gabriel Iglesias while Williams is given pro basketball player J.R. Smith. I guess CBS must think that having three overweight men compete in a sports-themed show would be funny.
The first show featured a spin-cycling “race” between Gronkowski and J. R. Smith where they both had to spin at 100 RPMs or higher. As they dropped to a lower RPM, a large water balloon that loomed above them was lowered as well. The loser was drenched. Not horrible, but not exactly exciting or funny even with the slow-mo instant replay. However, you wouldn’t know that given the over-the-top reactions of the other celebs. In fact, every joke shared throughout the whole show was met by fits of laughter from the other celebs, except for Williams who looked somewhat uncomfortable as if to be asking “What have I gotten myself into?” For that matter, Williams doesn’t really get to do much on the show except stand around while her teammates do the actual tasks. (She will be doing some of the actual competing in future episodes though.)
Other competitions for the night included some of the contestants kicking a field goal at the Colosseum during an L.A. Rams game, a soccer drill where pretty much everyone just stood around and watched Lee fail as a goalie missing “pop shots” from the likes of Mark McGrath, Coolio and Macy Gray, and a battle of strength against the strongest man in the world. In between these “hilarious” stunts, host Keegan-Michael Key would ask the teams absurd trivia questions about various sports stars. Again, the team members found these and the jokes that followed, to be highly amusing. I like Key a lot and find him entertaining, but hosting this show is just not his thing. He yucks it up encouraging viewers to find it as fun as he does much like Mario Lopez and Kevin Hart did for their failed summer shows, Candy Crush and Total Knock Out.
Look, I’m all for silly game shows, especially during a time like this, but Game On! is no Holey Moley. It’s hard to believe that CBS who has won awards for shows like Survivor and The Amazing Race can’t seem to find a suitable summer hit show. If Game One! was being aired during a regular summer season, I expect it would be dropped from the schedule in a week or two. As it is, CBS doesn’t have a lot to put in its place. In any case, I don’t expect it to return next summer.
Main Image: (L-R): Ian Karmel, Venus Williams, Keegan-Michael Key, Rob Gronkowski, and Bobby Lee (Monty Brinton/CBS)
I write about arts and entertainment in the greater Seattle area.