It's the closest thing you will find to a well-formatted, well-produced, modern game show with a classic feel. In an industry where it seems like every new game show has to include all the possible razzle-dazzle elements available, 25 Words or Less transports viewers back to the simpler days of game shows where a strong game and a feel-good vibe was all you needed to entice an audience.
Based on the popular board game of the same name, 25 Words or Less was a three-week trial run game show that aired in syndication on a number of Fox Television stations. The show was hosted by Meredith Vieira, who, for 11 years, sat opposite the famous "Hot Seat" as the host of the weekday, syndicated edition of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire.
25 Words or Less can best be described as "Extended Password" as the clue-givers can use more than one-word clues if they wanted to, but giving one-word clues were ideal since every word truly counted. Here's how the main game works. There are two teams, each consisting of a contestant and two celebrities. In the first four rounds, the clue-givers have 45 seconds to get their teammate to say all five answers using as few words as possible. However, before any clue-giving takes place, one player from each team must first bid for the right to play.
In a Family Feud-style atmosphere, the two opponents step up to the center podium and see the five answers on their respective tablets. Based on the initial level of difficulty, Meredith then gives both players an opening bid for the number of words they can choose to use to describe those five answers. The opening bid never exceeds 25 words. Each time one of the contestants lowers the bid, their opponent can either counter with a lower bid of their own or challenge their opponent to play their current bid. If the clue-giver can get their two teammates to say all five answers within 45 seconds using the number of words, or less, at their disposal, they score the round's points for their team. If they fail, however, the points go to the other team.
In the fifth round, all four celebrities are taken backstage where they cannot see or hear anything. For this round, both contestants build their own answer boards. They are shown three answers, green, yellow and red, each increasing in pre-determined difficulty. This is where strategy comes into play because both contestants will be giving the clues for their boards and have 45 seconds and 20 words at their disposal. They receive points for each answer their celebrity teammates say and a bonus of 1,000 points if all five answers are said. Answer selection is key for both contestants because whoever has more points after this round goes on to the money round for a chance to win $10,000.
In the money round, the contestants choose who wants to be the clue-giver. That person will have 60 seconds and 25 words to get their teammates to say ten answers. If all ten answers are given, the contestant wins $10,000. If not, they still go home with a nice vacation as a consolation gift.
One of the fundamental elements of any great game show is the ability for the viewers to play along at home, and with 25 Words or Less, you cannot help but scream clues that you would give at the television screen. This is an addictive show because when you see the five answers pop up on the screen, you will instantly count on your fingers how many words you think you need for someone to say them.
Not only that but for the build-your-own-board round, it's really hard to not shout out your own opinion as to which of the three answers the contestant should pick. Try watching an episode of 25 Words or Less and not yelling out words that you think the clue-giver should say ... it's not going to happen because the urge will always be there.
As mentioned earlier, 25 Words or Less offers a classic game show feel in the 21st century. With celebrity-guided teams, the show is almost an homage to the superb formats from the '60s through the '80s. There are a lot of game shows that feature celebrities on today's roster, but many of the times it feels like the celebrities are more focused on getting a laugh rather than helping their contestants win. However, a common thread among the stars that appeared on 25 Words or Less was that they all seemed genuinely invested in the game and wanted to perform well so the contestants could win $10,000.
Just like she was on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. Meredith Vieira is a stellar host. The way she effortlessly guides viewers through the game play while incorporating her natural charm and humor is something that any aspiring game show host, or any aspiring host in general, should look up to. The way that Meredith interacts with both the celebrities and contestants is mesmerizing, as it doesn't feel like you a watching a studio game show but rather a game night at Meredith's house. It's great seeing Meredith Vieira back in the game show scene as she has definitely been missed since she departed from Millionaire back in 2013.
25 Words or Less is a beautifully structured game show that delivers when it comes to how the game is played. If there were one element that could have been different, it would definitely be the top prize. In today's day and age, $10,000 as a bonus round top prize is pretty lame, especially when there were more substantial payoffs on game shows thirty and forty years ago. Now, to be fair, those were network game shows, so the budgets were bigger, but still, contestants were winning over $10,000 during the '70s and '80s game show bonus rounds! 25 Words or Less was compared to Password earlier, and as an example of a big payoff from way back when, here's a Super Password contestant winning $55,000 during a single bonus round segment.
Now wouldn't a $55,000 win on 25 Words or Less be just as exciting and fun to watch!?
Although the show was only a three-week run, the trial proved that 25 Words or Less definitely deserves a spot on a daily schedule as it's a excellent dinnertime game that the whole family can watch and play along together. Between Meredith Vieira as host and a format that is brilliantly devised, 25 Words or Less needs to be a year-long series and one that lasts for a few seasons. It would be a genuine let down if this show doesn't get an extended run when weaker game shows have aired for longer periods of time. 25 Words or Less has shown its potential to be a force in the world of daytime game shows, and if given a chance, it could become a smash-hit game show hit.