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 this game show asks contestants (and, by extension, viewers) to make assumptions about people based on their appearance, but the pros and cons of using superficial characteristics like race, age, and body size to categorize someone are never discussed. Some of the people involved in the show wear skimpy, sexy clothing (like a bikini top and sarong), and occasionally a contestant makes a flirtatious comment toward one of them.
What's the story?
Hosted by Penn Jillette (of comedy duo Penn & Teller), game show IDENTITY asks contestants to match 12 strangers with their avocations simply by looking at them. Contestants are provided with a list of professions or characteristics -- such as "painter" or "IRS agent" or "heart transplant recipient" -- with which to connect the 12. As Jillette says, "It's all about snap judgments" -- and with a rotund Asian man on stage wearing nothing but a loincloth, it's not hard to quickly locate the sumo wrestler in the bunch. (Yes, some of the connections are that easy, but it gets harder as the money pot grows closer to the $500,000 grand prize.) Contestants do get three "helps": one missed match, one "tridentity" (in which the group shrinks down to three possible matches), and one chance to consult the experts (an FBI agent, a body language expert, and a psychologist), and mid-game contestants also get some help from friends or relatives on the sidelines.
Is it any good?
While the concept of judging people by the way they look seems ripe for discussion (and controversy), Identity does nothing to engage the subject -- showing only that yes, sometimes a person's clothes help you figure out what kind of work they do (duh!) and sometimes your assumptions are wrong (a young woman in a dress might be a termite inspector -- double duh!). Once players take a guess and "seal the identity" by pressing their hand on a futuristic-looking cylinder, an annoyingly long period of time elapses in an attempt to build suspense before the stranger-on-a-pedestal reveals his or her identity with a silly quip (retired English professor? "You passed the test!").
Jillette is a pleasant enough host, and he doesn't have the tinge of creepiness of 1 vs 100's Bob Saget or the self-mocking exaggeration of Show Me the Money's William Shatner. But overall, the show doesn't have much to latch on to -- no clever strategies to employ, no trivia to guess at -- and once the easy choices are eliminated, players would be fools not to take the stack of accumulated cash and go home a little bit richer.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about judging people based on their appearance. What's wrong with making assumptions based on looks? Is it ever helpful to guess who someone is by looking at them? Have you ever been judged on your appearance? Have you ever made a mistake when making an assumption about someone? What messages is this show sending to kids and other viewers?