If you think Jeopardy! doesn’t have enough science content for you, check your cable listings to see if you have The Science Channel. If you do, you can now check out a science game show called Head Games. Produced by Whoopi Goldberg and hosted by Greg Proops (who you might remember from both versions of Whose Line is it Anyway?), the show premiered last night. At least for the moment the show will air at 9 p.m. Eastern time on Saturdays. Being on a second-tier Discovery network, the rating was always going to be tiny. The timeslot won’t help.
The questions are based on experiments shown on videotape (most of them taped at the Liberty Science Center in New Jersey). Contestants are asked some version of “what happens next?” at a particular point in the experiment, and given either a choice of three outcomes, or the question is phrased for a true/false answer. At the end of each round, contestants can answer a series of ‘flashback’ questions based on information presented in that round. The final round takes the top two contestants and gives them a rapid, head-to-head challenge to identify various lifeforms and objects based on clues given by the host.
All of the questions were in an interesting middle zone. None of them were simple, but none required knowledge of cutting edge science. There was a good distribution of science subjects, so it doesn’t appear that physicists would have a distinct advantage over biologists, or vice versa. If your science knowledge is broad, you might want to audition for the show, should it get picked up for additional episodes.
I think the network and the timeslot will probably be the biggest hurdles for this show. The low payday ($3300 for one winner), and the timing of answers could use some work, but that’s to be expected in the first few episodes. The gameplay is lively, the host keeps things moving really well, and the random channel surfer won’t feel left out by the level of material covered. The contestants are science fans, if not scientists, and the whole show has a subtext of science (and smart) is cool. So tune in on Saturdays, or challenge your friends in the online version (requires Facebook).