Awake: The Million Dollar Game

TV review by
Melissa Camacho, Common Sense Media
Awake: The Million Dollar Game TV Poster Image
Amusing game exploits sleep-deprived contestants for cash.

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The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

It offers brief scientific reasons why challenges are hard to complete without sleep. Greed and the willingness to go to extremes for money are also themes. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Contestants are friendly towards each other. They are willing to push themselves mentally and physically to win, but their decisions aren’t always good ones. 


Some challenges require egg smashing and similar activities, but nothing really violent. 


The contestants compete for a million-dollar prize. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Awake: The Million Dollar Game features extremely sleep-deprived people competing for a cash prize. Hosted by comedian James Davis, the physical and mentally compromised contestants are expected to under-perform, which is presented as funny. Some of the challenges require folks to smash eggs on their protected faces or similar activities, but there’s nothing truly violent. Messages could be drawn about the importance of sleep to a person's well-being, and the various things that can impact a good night's slumber.

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What's the story?

Hosted by comedian James Davis, AWAKE: THE MILLION DOLLAR GAME features sleepy contestants vying for a million-dollar prize. Players stay awake for 24 hours before participating in rounds of challenges. The catch? Each one is designed to be more difficult for people who are sleep deprived. The person who finishes last after each round is eliminated, but not before all the contestants are offered a sum of money that they can walk away with before finding out who the actual loser is. As they compete, TV audiences are given brief scientific explanations about why the tasks are more difficult for someone who hasn’t had any shut-eye. The last person remaining in the game can take a final buy out, or risk it all to play for the million-dollar prize. 

Is it any good?

This exploitative but amusing series reveals how sleep deprivation impacts people’s ability to function, especially when they're expected to make strategic decisions during a game show. Some of the fun comes from watching the contestants struggle through challenges that range from weird stunts to mundane everyday tasks. But the real entertainment comes from tension created by the buy-outs, which require contestants to make high stakes decisions while completely exhausted. 

It’s meant to be lighthearted reality fare. However, Awake: The Million Dollar Game also relies on the willingness of people to temporarily put their physical and mental well-being aside for the sake of winning some cash. Meanwhile, putting extremely sleep-deprived people who are barely functioning on a stage to under-perform feels a bit like a torture session. Some folks will enjoy it, but it also makes you wonder how far people will go to win a buck or two. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why people will subject themselves to physical and mental extremes to win money on television. What reasons do contestants on Awake: The Million Dollar Game offer for putting themselves through the experience?

  • What are the dangers associated with not sleeping? How does media consumption play a role in our ability to get enough sleep? 

  • Hosted by a comedian, Awake is intended to fetch laughs. What other tone could the show take, depending on who the host is and what the competitions are like?  

TV details

  • Premiere date: June 14, 2019
  • Cast: James Davis
  • Network: Netflix
  • Genre: Game Shows
  • TV rating: TV-PG
  • Available on: Streaming
  • Last updated: July 9, 2020

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