Hot Sauce Game Show Sickens Contestants, Viewers Alike

The object of a new game show premiering this week is to avoid throwing up.

And even that proves impossible for one of the stricken contestants early in the premiere episode. 

Certainly, the makers of this show -- titled “Hot Ones: The Game Show” and premiering Tuesday on TruTV -- would insist that the goal of the game is to win a grand prize of $25,000 after answering a series of trivia questions while under the influence of a series of hot sauces whose potency increases with each round of the game.

Technically, all of that is true. But part (if not most) of this show's entertainment “value” would appear to lie in our getting to watch these contestants as they get sicker after each of these egregious hot-sauce impacts.

For that reason and a number of other details gleaned from the series’ premiere that the TV Blog previewed on Monday, this show emerges as the first and possibly best candidate to be named Worst TV Show of the Year next December. And it is only February.



To give TruTV its due, the network works hard to position this show as a natural evolution from a web version that the network claims has already been embraced by many.

“Hot Ones has become a global phenomenon, with more than one-billion [sic] views over ten seasons,” says a piece of publicity boilerplate provided by Tru.

A snarky TV critic might react to the statement by writing something like: If that claim is true, then the globe is in big trouble. Oops, I just wrote that.

Where does one begin in order to make the case that this new game show is wholly inappropriate and “just wrong,” as the kids like to say these days?

For one thing, much of TV today falls into that same category. The producers of “Hot Ones” and their handlers at TruTV could say rightfully that their show is merely reflecting certain current trends in comportment and hot sauce consumption that are already widespread.

Apparently, ladling the hottest sauces imaginable onto chicken wings (the hot food of choice in the series premiere) is a craze in which many participate today -- followed by nausea (and its corollary, vomiting), dizziness, cold sweats and sudden, impaired vision and other motor and cognitive skills.

This might be simply a matter of personal opinion, but watching people in a gradually increasing state of physical agony held no fascination for me while I watched “Hot Ones.” Perhaps many others will think differently.

Among other things, buckets for the purpose of vomiting are placed near the participants. One of them used this bucket in the series premiere, shortly after announcing that he needed “to take a dump.” Mercifully, this last bodily function was not shown, but give this show time.

Later, another contestant was seen barfing into a toilet. Along the way, the contestants were challenged to answer questions such as: How many waffles are there in a box of Eggos? One of the contestants said eight, when the answer is 10. Oh, well, I guess he forgot to study.

The thing about “Hot Ones” that struck me most was that the behavior on display was the kind of activity that, say, a former college fraternity member would likely regret when looking back on it years later.

In this case, the activity consisted of consuming mass quantities of something such as beer until vomiting ensued -- a “contest” that just might have been inflicted by upperclassmen on a group of freshman pledges many years ago at a certain Big 10 university. Sorry, the details are fuzzy on this.

On “Hot Ones,” however, this behavior is condoned. Indeed, it is the very point of the competition.

There are even segments in which supposed medical personnel suddenly rush onstage to check the vital signs of the contestants who are in obvious distress. And yet, the OK is given to continue this horrible, and probably unhealthy, behavior anyway.

To get an idea of the direction TruTV seems intent on going, a few weeks ago the network announced another new show, coming soon, in which a woman in rural Maine will be seen in every episode fabricating so-called “art” out of moose dung.

And into the dung heap goes television -- once again.

“Hot Ones: The Game Show” premieres Tuesday (Feb. 18) at 10 p.m. Eastern on TruTV.

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