Take it All (2012) – Season 1, Episode 1 – Starring Howie Mandel.
I hope everyone involved in making TAKE IT ALL walks outside tonight and every bird in the area sh*ts all over them at the same time, because that’s basically what this show does to their contestants.
As anyone who has read more than a single review on this site knows, I am not some kind of extreme moralist. There are some things that offend me to the point where I won’t watch them, however: Faces of Death, The Human Centipede, and TAKE IT ALL.
Do you see what I did there? Or rather, what I didn’t do? I didn’t say that I won’t watch offensive productions like Faces of Death, The Human Centipede, and Cupcake Wars. “The weather outside is frightful and we want cupcakes that are delightful,” said the smarmy host of Cupcake Wars just now on my computer. I’ve been watching Cupcake Wars for 24 minutes and it makes me hate cupcakes (which I used to love), corny one-liners (which I have a love/hate relationship with), and cheeseball hosts (which, honestly, I’ve always hated – I don’t know who this smarm in a scarf is, but he’s like Carson Daly mated with himself and raised the child solely on Carson Daly programming). Based on 24 minutes, Cupcake Wars is a horrendous show, but it’s problem is that it’s just dumb and overwrought and amateurishly put together.
That’s just a bad show; it’s not offensive.
By the way, if you’re the kind of person who routinely gets offended by entertainment – you know, if your’re a religious fundamentalist or part of the George Lucas Raped My Childhood crowd – go swim up a waterfall.
TAKE IT ALL, however, is offensive. It’s offensive because it’s a mean-spirited, emotional gladiatorial contest masquerading as a game show-slash-uplifting entertainment. It’s utter bullsh*t. It’s so bullsh*t, I actually ended up feeling kinda bad for Howie Mandel, who seems genuinely surprised when the losing contestants get upset.
And they get amazingly upset.
Here’s how TAKE IT ALL works: contestants select a gift and get a prize. Other contestants have an opportunity to steal that prize. The goal of each round is to not end up with the prize with the lowest retail value. In other words, it’s a Yankee Swap glitzed up for TV by adding bells, whistles, Howie Mandel, and crying. Lots and lots of crying.
I’ve never really liked the idea of a Yankee Swap (which is what we call it in New England – other regions apparently call this game “White Elephant,” which is not a good name for anything) going back to the Boy Scout Christmas parties we had when I was a kid. I just thought they were ridiculous and the antithesis of the Christmas spirit. Nothing about TAKE IT ALL changes my mind in that regard, and the fact that the goal of the show is not to end up with gifts you actually want, but simply the most expensive gift adds a layer of repulsiveness to the proceedings. At least most Yankee Swaps have a reasonable price limit: $5, $10, $20 – not $250,000 f*cking dollars. When a kid took your Hot Wheels it was because the car was awesome not because of the price tag. So score one for Yankee Swaps. Score two for Yankee Swaps in that most of them do not come with Howie Mandel blathering on in your face.
But I digress. Mandel is not the biggest problem with TAKE IT ALL, except as the show’s ringmaster he’s the guy manipulating everyone’s emotions. That manipulation merely exacerbates the underlying meanness of TAKE IT ALL, however, so whether contestants had Mandel or Daly or Seacrest or Philbin yammering away at them, the damage is done because of the show’s “take it all” format.
There’s nothing fun about this show because of the stakes involved. Mandel repeatedly tells contestants that winning this show, “can change your life!” The producers have chosen contestants, too, whose lives really will be changed if they win this show. The first episode had a female teacher whose husband lost his job over a year ago, a recent law school grad who’s interning and so doesn’t even have a paycheck coming in, a soon-to-be-father who shouts a lot, a Santa Claus-looking dude who plays the good Christian card, and a woman who screams and gets eliminated first so we can forget about her. The teacher and the would-be lawyer cry a bunch because their real lives are in tough spots and here they are, getting all of these expensive gifts given to them and then taken away.
It’s awful to watch.
Each round eliminates the person with the cheapest gift, but just because you survive a round doesn’t mean you get to keep your prize. If you get eliminated at any time during the competition, you lose everything.
Oh, get f*cked, Howie Mandel.
The lawyer makes it to the third round. She’s already won a beer cave and a mechanical bull, which, yes, are completely worthless gifts to this person, but hey, they weren’t the gifts with the lowest retail value, so obviously they’re better than the f*cking new Smart Car that got the male screamer eliminated. The lawyer made a point to mention she was single during her intro, and Howie referenced this constantly throughout the show. “A beer cave and a mechanical bull,” he blathered at one point, “you’re becoming closer to being every guy’s dream!”
Right, because her being a hot lawyer is a total turn off for guys.
The really repulsive part of the show came next, however, when Howie pulled the rug out from under her by taking away her beer cave and mechanical bull.
Sorry, Lawyer Woman, I guess no man will ever find you attractive enough to mate with!
The lawyer cries, though, because even if she didn’t want these gifts (and she clearly did not want the bull, as she tried to entice other contestants to steal it), having them represented a win a life that clearly (from her perspective) needs a win. And she had not one, but two wins, on the show, and then Mandel rips it all away and she cries and Howie F*cking Howie Mandel steps in and asks, “Why are you crying?” He says it in a way that seems to indicate he’s surprised that this woman is actually crying, and I don’t know if this makes me like him or hate him.
I think this says something about how bullsh*t has so totally enveloped certain aspects of our society that Mandel can, on the one hand, play up the “winning will change your life” angle, and on the other, be surprised when people are upset that their lives aren’t changed.
In the final round, there are two contestants left. They each have their stash of goods and they each have to make a choice, whether they want to take it all, meaning take both stashes, or just keep their own. If both contestants choose to take it all, nobody gets anything. If both choose to just keep theirs, they both get to keep their stash. If one chooses to take everything and the other chooses to just keep theirs, then the one who chose everything gets, well, everything, and the “keep it mine” contestant gets nothing.
This is entertainment?
Maybe if we were watching rich celebrities this would be humorous, because then it really wouldn’t matter if Richard Branson tricked Oprah into losing her new Prius, or if it turns out that Tom Cruise and LeBron James are really decent guys who want both of them to go home with some prizes.
We don’t get this, however, because we get people who really need some cash infused into their lives. At the end, Santa tells the teacher that he believes God has chosen for them to be here and for both of them to get something and he votes to just keep his. The teacher, who’s been crying and lamenting everything all show, tells Santa she doesn’t know if she can trust him and she’s almost crying again and blah blah blah.
She picks the “Take it All” option and he takes the just keep his option, meaning she gets everything and Santa gets nothing and, well, Winner Lady, congratulations on being a total b*tch. I’m sure you can buy lots of books with all that money you won, but all you really proved is that you were a really horrible person on a really horrible game show.
Enjoying crap like this probably means you enjoy seeing bad things happen to good people or love going to dog fights. Either way, you suck, just like TAKE IT ALL sucks. I would be hard-pressed to think of a show that has less holiday spirit on the air right now than TAKE IT ALL. I only watched this show because they had Mandel pop up on an episode of The Voice to plug it. I like The Voice because it’s a show about genuinely talented people who realize they’re lucky to be in this position. No one mocks them or tears them down and while they get emotional (and while Daly does do some emotional jerking around), The Voice is a show that celebrates talent.
TAKE IT ALL celebrates misery, so f*ck you, TAKE IT ALL, and here’s me wishing good aim to all the birds in your neighborhood.
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