A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that the contestants on this show endure some extremely uncomfortable situations for the chance to win money. To win, they must find hidden cash, but the money is protected by elaborate booby traps that generally involve physical discomfort. Contestants are immersed in frigid water, subjected to electric shocks, chained inside a safe, and surrounded by snakes, crabs, and other creatures. The entire format of the show plays on the notion that it's fun to watch other people in pain. If that's not for you, then neither is this show.
What's the story?
Seven contestants visit a spooky mansion -- the titular ESTATE OF PANIC -- hoping to win money by participating in a series of difficult, often painful, challenges. Host Steve Valentine, channeling the creepy villain from every B-grade horror movie, guides them to different rooms, where they must search for hidden cash. But the money is protected by some imaginatively complex booby traps, including a snake-filled basement that gradually fills with frigid water, a study in which the roof slowly descends until the players are in danger of being crushed, and a garden strung with an intricate web of electrically charged wires. The players are gradually eliminated until the last one standing collects his or her winnings.
Is it any good?
Some game shows reward intelligence, while others play on sheer luck -- but the concept that seems to have become popular in recent years offers people the chance to win money based on how much pain, humiliation, or grossness they're willing to endure. Call it the Fear Factor effect. That's the model for this show, with its clever -- but very uncomfortable -- challenges. There's no doubt that plenty of work went into creating these sets, which recreate the spooky vibes found in the best (and worst) haunted house films. And the challenges are indeed challenging, unlike some game shows in which the winners just happen to spin the wheel the right way or strike it rich with a lucky guess.
But shows like this one also significantly change the viewing experience. Game shows once played on aspirations, with viewers wishing they knew enough about, say, the Renaissance to correctly answer a Final Jeopardy! question, or that they were lucky enough to win on The Price Is Right. But in Estate of Panic, many viewers will have the opposite reaction, being glad they don't have to stick their hand in a vat of slithering insects to dig up a $100 bill. And perhaps there's something unseemly about this concept, with the contestants getting paid to do something the viewers won't, making them more like hired performers. It's a different type of entertainment, and something that definitely won't be appealing to some viewers.