Last night’s premiere of Downfall, ABC’s summer-filler game show, promised some good, old-fashioned, injury-inducing American fun — the losers of the game, the ads touted, would be thrown off a ten-story building. Sounds awesome, right? So we watched, and watched, and endured host Chris Jericho, a former wrestler who looks like a bulkier Stephen Dorff and whose hosting specialty seems to be SHOUTING with enthusiasm. The first contestant, Nicole, a perky mom married to a Navy pilot (“Go Navy!”), was escorted to the edge of the building, and hooked up to a harnesslike contraption before being shown various prizes that she’d win if she could answer a series of trivia questions. The catch: While that was going on, replicas of the prizes were being sent down a conveyor belt and subsequently launched off the building. Got that? Yeah, we didn’t really, either.
But the rules, we gathered, weren’t that important. Because it’s fun to watch fake cars go off buildings, right? Well, not really. First of all, they’re fake, so who cares. Secondly, they don’t explode or anything. Give us a ball of fire, we command! Nicole went through the rounds until she’d reached a possible $50,000: The category was “Vegetable Varieties,” and after Nicole failed to deduce that “Curly & Escarole” were types of endive (and her fake car, fake living-room set, and monopoly money had been sent over the edge), it was her time to be launched off the building. Yay! But instead of a violent tug, we were treated to Nicole being gently raised up by her harness, as if she were playing Wendy in a high-school production of Peter Pan. She even had time to give the audience a salute. And then she dropped, not that quickly, down to the ground, smoothly enough so that she was running and clapping right after she’d touched the floor. No near-death drama, no screams of pain, just an attractive blonde lady being lowered down, as if she were on the highest peg of a rock-climbing wall. What the hell, ABC? Where was our desired, traumatizing fall? From now on, we’re sticking with Wipeout, which at least promises a concussion or two.