Game shows are a wonderful form of escapism for viewers, and generally an opportunity for the players to win big! Quiz shows specifically are by far one of the oldest, most classic formats, where the contestant has to answer a series of trivia questions correctly to win the grand prize. The J-Drama “Quiz Show”, which features a show within a show, turns the idea of Game Shows on its head for both the J-Drama audience and the ‘in show’ audience. What this means is that for those watching the J-Drama, we’re treated to strange scenes off-set featuring a frazzled host usually being harassed and intimidated by the game show’s producer. For the game show ‘audience’, the twist is that instead of typical trivia questions for the contestants, often ‘celebrities’, the questions are quite personal and scathing. These questions usually reveal something about the contestants’ sordid histories and lives, while reflecting a unique cardinal sin that each contestant represents. For both ‘in show’ and real viewers of this J-Drama, the confrontational nature of the show leads to some incredibly unorthodox and likewise captivating television. The surprises waiting at the end of the show are even more incredible though, leading to a wonderfully dramatic resolution!
In general, even the best J-Dramas seem to feed off of a formula of one sort or another; however, The Quiz Show is one of the rare shows that stand apart from the crowd. From the enigmatic nature of the show to the quirky characters, The Quiz Show revels in wonderful weirdness. Indeed, at times the intense quizzes and subsequent awkwardness might be a put off; however, much like with Liar Game and Majo Saiban, the twists and turns kept me watching for more.
In addition to a delightfully dark story, the Quiz Show’s cinematography and set design has been carefully conceived. For instance, The Quiz Show’s set, while perhaps typical of a game show, seems to emphasize the contestants’ solitude during their ‘inquisition’. Likewise, after glimpsing the Producer’s maniacal nature, his physical position in the studio seems all the more important. In the studio he keeps tabs on the quiz show; and in doing so though, he gives off vibes a Judge or King might have, authoritatively peering over his domain. These details help add to the psychological overtones of the show, and further enrich the depth and viewing experience of the show.
In summary, while I haven’t continued on to Season 2 due to character changes, I can and will personally recommend The Quiz Show Season 1. In my opinion, blending the joy and comedy represented by game shows with the oftentimes harsh realities of life was truly a brilliant juxtaposition. In addition, the use of biblical references, especially the sins, in The Quiz show only serves to further enhance the show’s metaphorical mysteries. Of course, if you prefer straight up comedies or action shows then this may not be for your taste; but if you like mysteries, black comedy, and quirky television then I’d certainly suggest you check out The Quiz Show.
Score: 4 out of 5