I can't say I'll miss Brain Game during this hiatus. Do I hope it comes back next school year? Sure, because it's for the kids. But I think Brain Game has gotten worse, to the point where it's likely been difficult for them to develop and sustain a "fan base" necessary to ensure consistent viewing outside of family members of participating students, in the iterations following the dissolution of the Ohio News Network, which has been roughly four years now.
A list of criticisms:
- The question content has gotten considerably worse over the years. For a few seasons, back when ONN did the show, Bob Kilner wrote the show's questions and they were really good. Bob's questions were written in the pyramidal format; the questions on academic topics were actually academic and engaging, and his content in general was a great credit to the activity of quiz bowl. Then the producers switched to the questions of Chip Beall (groan) for a brief time, but somehow last school year's questions had a bunch of questions that were even worse. Either the standards of the producers made for a lower bar, or the question writers got incredibly lazier, but clunkers in the previous iteration include "Name the group that has been disrupting presidential campaign stops and speeches. ANSWER: Black Lives Matter" and "In what country was Benazhir Bhutto assassinated in" (bear in mind Bhutto was killed in 2007, so a lot of these kids were in fourth grade or earlier when it happened.) I'm not by any means opposed to either of those two topics being asked about, but questions need to be written with concision like we see on Jeopardy! or in the activity of quiz bowl. Other issues and themes I've noticed include binary association of Ohio towns to counties, questions that are neither academic nor trivial but instead are minutia, and questions that are open-ended. One strength of ONN's Brain Game was the fact Kilner's questions made it an easy show to play along with at home. I would not say the same for the WBNS iterations.
- In my opinion, the dissolution of ONN and consequently no statewide syndication (thus the geographic restrictions of who could participate) contributed to Brain Game losing its identity. The Cleveland/Akron area has Academic Challenge on WEWS; Youngstown has their own quiz television show; northwest Ohio has a show running on WNWO; Dayton has (or had?) High-Q; and Columbus has had "In the Know", which has been on the air for I believe 35+ years. The statewide aspect of ONN's Brain Game kept the match-ups interesting, as literal state powers from the various corners of the state would get their chance to rack up the points and play for the money, while little spit on the map schools and their kids could get their fifteen seconds of airtime. It was as close to a win-win as it could get. With the most recent editions limiting participation to Central Ohio schools, there isn't as much intrigue I feel in watching "one of suburb A's three high schools playing one of suburb B's four high schools". Then there's also the fact that Brain Game evidently doesn't accomplish anything that In the Know doesn't already.
- They should get rid of the "one and done" format now that all of the schools are local. I'm not interested in watching six games of Brain Game in a school year if I know at least two of those games' winners aren't coming back for a game 2 later in the season.
- I think Mike Kallmeyer was a tough act for Kurt Ludlow and Mike Davis to follow, but what drove me nuts at times when watching was the fact both of them (or at least Ludlow did, but I'm pretty sure Davis did too) repeated the question and would read out the entire question even after an early buzz. I suppose there's an argument that those decisions are made "for the people playing at home", but the previous two readers weren't as fast as Kallmeyer and it seems unnecessary for viewership purposes to make the questions more strung-out than they had to. I'm not criticizing the fact the most recent hosts have read slow, I'm criticizing the fact the game moves at a slower pace. "In the Know" may have some faults, but Bill Schiffman is a great reader and makes the pace of the game go very well. Brain Game on the other hand, has not.
Maybe Brain Game when it comes back can improve. I hope it does. I really enjoyed playing on Brain Game during the ONN iterations and I had a fair time playing on the WBNS ones, but its my opinion the show has gotten worse for the reasons listed above. Maybe its unreasonable to think WBNS will heed all of my criticisms and change the show in those respective areas in response, but they could at least change one thing I listed as an issue and the show would instantly be better. Some of the issues I believe are quality issues, others are viewership issues.
William V. Fisher Catholic '14
Ohio Wesleyan '18